The cost of getting a higher education in the hallowed halls of Harvard University with room, board, and books is about $60,000 annually, or near a quarter million by the time a student graduates. The cost of housing an inmate in a federal prison is approximately $30,000 annually. Arguably, those going to Harvard would receive a better education than those being housed in a prison cell, but intelligence can’t be bought, and a scholarly battle between the Harvard debate team and three prison inmates from the Eastern New York Correctional Facility who were sent there for committing violent crimes, proves this to be unequivocally true.

The inmates and Harvard undergrad students recently took to the stage to have a formal debate, but onlookers were shocked at what they saw and heard. Students from America’s most prestigious source of ‘higher’ education were completely gob smacked by the intellectual arguments of their opponents from the federal prison system.

Carl Snyder, Carlos Polanco, and Dyjuan Tatro — out witted their opponents with acumen. They were, in fact, so brilliant in their defense of topics, that one of the event’s judges, Mary Nugent, revealed that though both sides did an admirable job in the debate, the group from Harvard failed to cover sections of the debate that the prisoners effectively addressed.

This was not the inmates’ first win, either. They’ve defeated a nationally ranked team from the University of Vermont and the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York. (They lost a rematch against West Point, and it has since become something of a rivalry.)

In the debate against Harvard, the inmates had to defend a point of view with which they fiercely disagreed, a common practice in debate competition: “Resolved: Public schools in the United States should have the ability to deny enrollment to undocumented students.”

Apparently maximum security beats maximum social notoriety, and proves that even those who have made egregious mistakes can learn from them. Furthermore, this display of amazing aptitude shows that the base level of intelligence of those who are incarcerated should not be discounted, as often is the case with those relegated to the prison system.

Perhaps Harvard should consider giving these three men a full ride to their law program after release. Clearly the best and brightest don’t always come from moneyed families that have been given special privileges. Consider for example, that some parents pay college advising companies as much as $7000 just to tell them which extra-curricular activities their children should be actively involved in during high school in order to more likely in acceptance into an elite college.

Apparently it isn’t just prison that is merciless. According to a recent report, getting into an elite college has never been more cutthroat. Last year, Harvard’s admissions rate dipped to a record low, with only 5.3% of applicants getting an acceptance letter. Stanford’s rate was even lower, at 5.05%. Sounds like the hallowed halls need a shake up, and these three men would be a nice start.

Sources:

http://www.cnn.com/2015/10/07/living/harvard-debate-team-loses-to-prison-inmates-feat/index.html

http://www.alternet.org/culture/harvard-debate-team-loses-prison-debate-team