The debate team from New York’s Eastern Correctional Facility has major bragging rights, after beating the national debate championship team from Harvard.
In September, the inmates invited the Harvard team to the Napanoch prison for a friendly match. The Eastern Correctional Facility team was formed two years ago, and the men take debate classes taught by faculty at Bard College; about 15 percent of the inmates are enrolled in different courses through the Bard Prison Initiative. “Students in the prison are held to the exact same standards, levels of rigor, and expectation as students on Bard’s main campus,” Max Kenner, executive director of the Bard Prison Initiative, told The Associated Press. “Those students are serious. They are not condescended to by their faculty.”
Harvard’s people attempted to slough the loss off on Facebook, but they should be profoundly humiliated by the result. It’s not a verbalised message, but Americans are told (and implicitly believe, based on the way they vote) that, unless you attended and received a degree from a few élite schools, you cannot be President, you cannot be on the Supreme Court, and that you’re really not up to being in a place of power in this country. All of this is put into question by this result (to say nothing about the state of the country these days).
Unless, of course, you think that the reason Harvard lost is that their idea doesn’t need to be debated any more, which is why they’re not as good at defending it as they used to be, in which case we’re in real trouble. The only way that’s going to work is if moving up is strictly an insiders game, in which case putting the elites into the same tavern for four years to bond to each other would be a lot cheaper.
But what kind of “meritocracy” is that?