HughPickens.com writes: Lauren Gambino reports at The Guardian that months after winning this year's national debate championship, Harvard's debate team has fallen to a debate team of three inmates with violent criminal records. 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. The Bard prison initiative has expanded since 2001 to six New York correctional facilities, and aims to provide inmates with a liberal arts education so that when the students leave prison they are able to find meaningful work. A three-judge panel concluded that the Bard team had raised strong arguments that the Harvard team had failed to consider and declared the team of inmates victorious. "Debate helps students master arguments that they don't necessarily agree with," says Max Kenner. "It also pushes people to learn to be not just better litigators but to become more empathetic people, and that's what really speaks to us as an institution about the debate union."
The prison team has proven formidable in the past, beating teams from the US military academy at West Point and the University of Vermont. They lost a rematch against West Point in April, setting up a friendly rivalry between the teams. The competition against West Point has become an annual event, and the prison team is preparing for the next debate in spring. In the morning before the debate, team members talked of nerves and their hope that competing against Harvard—even if they lost—would inspire other inmates to pursue educations. "If we win, it's going to make a lot of people question what goes on in here," says Alex Hall, a 31-year-old from Manhattan convicted of manslaughter. "We might not be as naturally rhetorically gifted, but we work really hard."
Read more of this story at Slashdot.