In a story straight out of a Hollywood film, Harvard university’s debating team lost to a group of New York prison inmates.
The team of three students from the prestigious Ivy League college took part in a debate against three inmates, who are all currently incarcerated at the maximum security Eastern New York Correctional Facility for various violent crimes, The Telegraph reports.
The inmates, Carl Snyder, Dyjuan Tatro and Carlos Polanco, had to argue the case for public schools being able to turn away students whose parents entered the US illegally. And they won, despite this being a position they all firmly disagree with.
They managed to put forward arguments the Harvard team hadn’t considered, even though they weren’t allowed to use the internet to prepare for it.
The three inmates impressed judges with their argument that if public schools did turn students away, non-governmental organisations or even wealthier schools could step up and provide a better education to the children.
The Harvard team are currently national champions, and Dhruva Bhat, the president of the Harvard College Debating Union told Boston.com they hadn’t ‘gone easy’ on the inmates, adding: “That would have been incredibly disrespectful of their talent and work”.
The prison debating team was started as an initiative from nearby Bard College, and in the two years they’ve been going they’ve beaten teams from the University of Vermont and US Military Academy at West Point.
One of the inmates, 31-year-old Alex Hall from Manhattan, who is serving a manslaughter conviction, told the Wall Street Journal: “We might not be as naturally rhetorically gifted, but we work really hard.”
And that hard work has paid off.
Wall Street Journal