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Harvard university debate team loses to New York prison inmates (2015) (telegraph.co.uk)
140 points by miraj 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 50 comments

Does anyone actually have the source to the actual debate? All i've found is clickbat articles.

Yes, would love to watch some actual footage.

This is two years old, and still can't find anything on YouTube.

Smells like bullshit to me.

Anyone interested in this should check out Radiolab's episode on the state of collegiate debate:


More relevant podcast episode, imho. This one is about inmates and Shakespeare: https://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/218/...

Your link is about an entirely different format of debate (“policy debate”) from the one under discussion in this thread (“parliamentary debate”). The two are unrecognizably different. See e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Policy_debate https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parliamentary_debate

Competition seems to have turned the so-called "policy debate" into a highly stylized ritual that bears little resemblance to true debate, and having little relevance outside of its own domain. To my mind, rewarding arguments regardless of validity or relevance, and favoring the number of arguments over their cogency, has destroyed its value.


I had no idea debates were a thing, quite interesting.

... wait what?

Debating is not on the usual school curriculum in many (most?) countries. You'll usually find private debating clubs, but they're also often not a big or even usual thing. Hence often not even known about.

I understand not having a debate program at your school before a university level.

What I do not understand is how you could be completely ignorant of the idea of "debates". There are thousands of videos on YouTube of debates. How can you understand the definition of the word debate and not realize that people have debates?

To me, that's like saying "I didn't know science fairs were a thing". Sure, I can understand how many (most?) people have probably not participated in a science fair themselves, although I made my initial comment aware that this is Hacker News and it's a slightly different group of people than the population at large. I do not understand the level of myopia that would be required to not even realize they exist.

All it takes is a non-american (non-western?) society. As a South African we don't have science fairs - at least not in the same way that I understand America does them. In school there are no science "competitions", and the closest that we ever got was doing an experiment as a class. The only reason I'm familiar with them is through American media, and to be honest they're still a bit of a weird concept that I'm not sure I fully understand.

As to debates, I've come across several debating clubs and public speaking clubs, however when I think of "debate" I think of American elections with politicians on a stage with podiums - we don't really have that here, especially between parties.

Your level of exposure to science fairs and debates sounds about the same as mine (an American). Yet we still know what they are from media portrayals, etc. I think that was fastball's point.

The myopia is assuming that every Hacker News reader is American. Many are not, and only a few countries organize debates or science fairs.

I should hope anyone reading hacker news has been exposed to a democratic form of government, and anyone familiar with democracy should be familiar with debating.

Also, I'm not American.

I don't think I've ever personally seen a science fair in real life, and I doubt any of my friends have, so it's at least a thing that's two degrees removed from my personal experience. I could easily see, once its thats far removed, thinking that even though I know what the word means, that it's not actually something that you'd encounter in real life -- that like e.g. bullies in school on TV, it's just something that is made up for story telling purposes in fiction.

There's often not even at a university level. There are millions of videos on YouTube, easy to miss a few thousand, especially if it's not something you ever actively looked for to trigger YouTube's you-might-also-like algos. Also debating where a debate is necessary or natural is not the same as making a sport out of it!

I agree that in this day and age it’s unusual to be ignorant of such a prevalent concept.

I know what penguins, stoning, and The Great Wall are, even though I live in the US and those things aren’t common here.

I'd assume they mean the academic formalised competitive kind of debates, not debates in general.

I wasn't really aware of then until I went to university.

Same. It seems to be a US thing. Coming from eastern Europe, I saw the school debate idea a few years ago in some movie and learned it's a serious sport thing only a month ago or so. (Where I also learned the competition level is pretty twisted / often relying on min/maxing rules)

It's definitely not a common concept. I've heard of chess boxing before this.

I replied to "I didn't know debates were a thing", not "I didn't realize universities had debate teams and that it was a competitive activity".

All I was looking for was a clarification from the person who made the very general statement. All I got was a lot of people putting words in someone else's mouth.

Well, to be fair, to "be a thing" is not equivalent to "exist".

In this context, I guess that "be a thing" means, "be something people do in their spare time, even when not strictly required to because its forced upon them in their role as politician/whatever."

Why should this surprise anyone. There are Harvard graduates in prison. There are geniuses in prison.

It shouldn't...

But it does because people assume that every one of the the 2.3 million Americans in prison today are uneducated thugs. It's not a comforting prospect to think of them as our peers, or worse yet, having been in a better position than us before their incarceration.

Well sure, but I would assume that the Harvard debate team is also full of geniuses.. or at the very least, wealthy people with all the resources and access to top tier mentoring and coaching.

Genius does not equal honesty or good character.

"Honesty" and good character isn't enough to keep you out of prison unfortunately.

You can be of exemplary moral character and still end up in prison if you decide to take on a cause that threatens the wrong people or the status quo.

Let's take for example Chelsea Manning and also consider what would have happened to Edward Snowden if he'd been caught. So you can be a genius, you can stand for what's right and even if you're not on the wrong side of the law, something will be found or twisted to stop you being a threat. In the case of my example, in the name of national security.

Being honest and of good character also doesn't mean you can't end up in prison.

And dishonesty or bad character don't mean that you can't win a debate.

Ivy League people are people, prision inmates are people.

Therefore, Socrates is a cat. But I see your point ;)

>The three inmates, Carl Snyder, Dyjuan Tatro and Carlos Polanco, were tasked with arguing that public schools should be allowed to turn away students whose parents entered the US illegally.

>The inmates impressed the judges by suggesting that if public schools turned the students away, non-governmental organisations or wealthier schools could step in and provide better education to the children in any case.

That's a weak argument, in my view.

The illegal immigrants wouldn't be able to afford private education as it is too expensive even for Americans. Non-gov orgs wouldn't be able to reach to illegal immigrants. Home- and Internet-schooling would be better arguments, but still bad.

Integrating the children of illegal immigrants into public schooling would bring greater benefits not only to them and their parents but to society as a whole.

One can argue that, in the US, European cultural values predominate ("white" is not a synonym for the Caucasian ethnicity but simply an identity that means "holds European cultural values"), and that African-Americans don't have significantly different cultural values from European culture, (ie, they are "white" save for superficial differences like music, food and places of worship, and so on), and that a Syrian Caucasian is not "white" (because they don't hold European cultural values) but an African-American descendant of the people from the Sahara region is a dark-skinned "white".

And therefore African-Americans being dark-skinned "whites" (even if they try to superficially distinguish themselves with the US "black" cultural identity) is an example of the power of assimilation of our public schooling. It would convert, say, a child of Syrian parents with Middle-Eastern values into someone who holds European cultural values and who would work, or rebel, within the cultural rules of the European system.

The children of illegal immigrants should be allowed into public schools not just to neutralize the threat of cultural invaders, but to give us more soft power over a wider portion of the world.

Discuss? ;)

> That's a weak argument, in my view.

Definitely, but from all I've seen of debate competition, the strength of argument is largely irrelevant. How many points did you make, how many were responded to, how many of the opponent's did you respond to...you might not get credit for a completely off-the-wall response, but if you pass a basic sanity check, I think you're good.

I could be wrong, but this seems to match, what I've been told, what I've seen, and what seems measurable (and balanced when you're assigned your position).

I would say it is counterproductive to base your re-education camp argument around loaded terms like white/black-american culture.

> ;)

But you know that.

Nobody uses "white" the way you did and even if that matches your observations in the US that term was only very recently inclusive of so many origin countries on the European continent. The UK version of "white" still isn't nearly as inclusive as the American construct. It is fine to merely say American culture has predominantly European roots.

The underlying argument around re-education camps may have more merit. The primary argument is about who pays for it. You need to convince Congress and education secretaries and I don't think you're soft power argument would sway anyone.

More specifically, I mean to say that "white" is the cultural identity that originated with the European Enlightenment and its values. It is almost perfectly interchangeable with "Westerner".

I also mean to say that this is universally true, as it is a fundamental definition of what "white" is -- a cultural identity, and not a skin-color, "race" or ethnicity.

Modern biology doesn't divide humans into races; there is no Caucasian "race", for example.

"White", furthermore, isn't an ethnicity like Caucasian is (because Caucasian simply refers to the ethnic people originally from the Caucus region), but instead is a cultural identity as I described above.

As "white" is a cultural identity, skin-color and ethnicity aren't a determining factor on whether someone is "white". Again, the term "white", when properly defined and understood without confusion with Caucasian or "of European birth or descent", is almost perfectly interchangeable with "Westerner".

What I mean by "black" are the unsuccessful attempts of African-American people of Sahara-region descent to avoid "white" assimilation and distinguish themselves from "white" culture. I say unsuccessful because African-American fundamental values are essentially the same as "white" values -- unlike, say, an African person from Nigeria -- and even as they rebel against institutionalized oppression they do so within the confines of "white" values (ie, they wish to be included in those institutions as equally as Caucasians, but don't wish to fundamentally destroy or alter them like other cultures do).

One can even go further and say that "black" is as much a proper name for ethnic people from the Sahara-region as would be to call people of Middle-Eastern descent "brown people". "Black", in my view, is simply a name adopted specifically by African-American culture, and doesn't refer to dark-skinned people as a whole; the term "black" is only PC in the US; in other languages, it is offensive; the technical name for people of Sahara-region descent is now taboo in the US, and, in my view, this is to help erase the memory of Africa-American cultural history and to further assimilation.

yes everyone could tell from outer orbit that this is the argument you actually wanted to have, and it has nothing to do with the discussion at hand and only undermines it and weakens your argument.

I largely agree with the argument out of doing it for assimilation and soft power reasons, however --

In general, poor people don't pay private schools the full amount, and private schools even set their budgets such that they expect to be subsidizing X% of the students at the bottom from Y% at the top, adjusting their tuition up and then discounting it for some or even most students.

You can't directly charge rich people more, but it turns out they'll look the other way if you charge everyone else less because they're poor.

> Discuss? ;)

I think you are going out of your way to intentionally start a flame-war barely related to the original article.

I think you underestimate the type of "spin" (for lack of better term) that goes on in the street? At least here in the Bronx, some of these people find ingenious arguments to get out of situations. Who is going to be better than understanding argument and the law, than someone who personally went through the process?

These people find ingenious short-term "quick-fix" arguments, a lot of that advantage can go away in the long term.

Yes I love this shit fuck ivy leagues

maybe the lost but they made it into Hype League!

Should say 2015


Could you please comment civilly and substantively instead of trolling?


Arguably no they actually werent

Why am I reading about this in an Oct 15 UK publication?

Amazing what happens when you step out of the "group think" environment and into the real world. They should have expected the unexpected.

This comment is so bad that it has to be satire. You can't really string that many cliches together while simultaneously claiming to have an outside view of "group think" and be sincere ... can you?

And this comment is so rude that your point is lost entirely.

Nope, serious.

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