Tribune – In a startling first, Harvard University’s debating team lost to New York prison inmates.
The showdown took place at the Eastern correctional facility in New York, a maximum-security prison where convicts can take courses taught by faculty from nearby Bard College, and where inmates have formed a popular debate club.
Last month the debate club invited the Ivy League undergraduates and this year’s national debate champions over for a friendly competition.
Despite arguing for a motion that they strongly disagreed with, the inmates against all odds defeated the Harvard team amidst cheers from the audience.
The inmates were asked to argue that public schools should be allowed to deny enrollment to undocumented students, a position the team opposed. …
“They caught us off guard,” Anais Carell, a 20-year-old student told the Wall Street Journal, adding how impressed the Harvard students, who are the current national champions, had been by their opponents.
This story has been circulating for the last day or so and people seem to be universally stunned and impressed that a group of prison inmates could defeat a bunch of Ivy Leaguers in a debate. A debate held inside their maximum security prison.
I’m sorry, but am I missing something? Where’s the mystery here? I mean, talk about your home podium advantage. These guys aren’t just your garden variety hoods, serving out six month stretches at some county house of corrections. This a super max. The worst of the worst. These are recidivists, felons and habitual criminal offenders in a battle where judges decide who wins. Every one of those guys from Eastern could have gone to the dais, stared across the room in silence and still won by a unanimous decision. If they held this debate via Skype, it would be a different story. Perhaps. I don’t know how much these judges would be worried about a “Cape Fear” scenario. But as it was, those Harvard kids might as well have been playing them in basketball, weight lifting or making shanks out of toothbrushes for all the chance they had of winning.
Lord knows I’m not as smart as a Harvard debater or as intimidating as a prison inmate. But I DO understand Star Wars Law: Always let the Wookie win. Because he doesn’t pull someone’s arm off when he loses.
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