Recently, The Guardian reports that Harvard’s speech and debate team that had recently won a national title was defeated by a debate team of NY prison inmates. The inmates had taken part in a debate course led by Bard College professors. The inmate debate team has also won debates against West Point and the University of Vermont. Debate has given these men opportunity, results demonstrated in “fewer than 2% [that] have returned to prison within three years, a standard measurement period for assessing recidivism. This is exceptionally low, when contrasted with the statewide recidivism rate, which has hovered for decades at about 40%.”
Public speaking can help build your understanding of the world and of yourself. “They make us believe in ourselves,” says Carlos Polanco, a 31-year-old from Queens and a member of Bard’s winning debate team. When you work in class researching and building your ideas, preparing speeches or debates, when you write poems or stories, you, too, are creating your voice and an understanding of the world that enables you to know who you are, to believe in yourself, and to contribute constructively to the world you live in.