Education: Prison Inmates Defeat Harvard in Debate

Three inmates from the Eastern New York Correctional Facility have been making headlines this week, but not for the reasons you might think. The group from the maximum-security prison has garnered attention for defeating Harvard University in a debate last September, a story that has Twitter buzzing and Hollywood producers bidding for the film rights. Though the Washington Post correctly points out that the public’s interest has a lot to do with our underlying assumption that prison inmates are incapable of this feat, the Wall Street Journal’s account of how Carl Snyder, Dyjuan Tatro, and Carlos Polanco prepared for the debate only makes the story more fascinating. The team had to conduct research without Google, since they are not allowed access to the Internet. They had to rely on books and articles for information, though requests for such resources can take weeks because they have to be approved by prison administration first. There was a solid 10-year age difference between the inmates and the undergraduates, but Harvard handled the defeat gracefully, stating, “There are few teams we are prouder of having lost a debate to than the phenomenally intelligent and articulate team we faced this weekend.”

Contributor: Celeste Montaño


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