Monday, October 31, 2011

Policy Debate - A Guide to Cross-X

Cross-x, like flowing, is an art form that is best perfected by experience.  For novice debaters it is probably one of the most intense and terrifying parts of the round.  The best strategy for withstanding the interrogation of a seasoned debate veteran, is to thoroughly understand your case.  Make sure you know all of the parts of your affirmative, the structure, the links, the harms and advantages.  Make sure you understand the negative strategy you are using and familiarize yourself intimately with all of the parts and nuances of your disadvantages, counter-plans or other mechanisms you intend to use against the opponent. This knowledge becomes even more critical as the round progresses into the 2AC and 2NC speeches.  By the time the second round of constructive speeches begin, you and your partner should have a pretty clear idea among yourselves as to how you will proceed into the rebuttals; which arguments may be the most critical and which strategy may be the most effective in winning the judge.  This is where experience helps the most, coupled with a good sense of where the round is headed and how the judge will weigh her decision.

This guide will give practical suggestions for cross-x.  Most importantly, it will give you practical ideas how to effectively root out the underlying strategy of the opponents and feed information to your partner who must prepare for the next speech and hopefully the suggestions in this guide will help you expose some weaknesses in your opponent's case.  As you gain experience and intuition, the recommendations in this guide will become a part of your natural, policy debate skill set.

General rules and suggestions for any cross-x:
  • Always look at the judge (as if asking the judge the questions - in my opinion you should barely acknowledge your opponent).
  • Avoid doing things which waste time, and do not allow the opponent to waste time by looking for evidence or rifling through their cards.
  • Control the CX - don't let the opponent speak too long. Ask questions that can be answered simply.
  • Ask questions - don't have a long preamble to asking the question - be direct.
  • Adapt your questioning to the round. Change up the order in which you ask your questions, change the wording around so it does not appear you are doing rote questioning.
  • Don't be rude or have a condescending (looking down upon) attitude
  • Watch your time so you are sure to hit all of the major points.

2NC cross-x of 1AC -
Take a little prep only if necessary so your partner can clarify to you what he may need
First, quickly clarify any items missing from the flow this will help your partner get started sooner on prep for the next speech.

The plan text
  Ask about any words you don't understand.
  Ask who is the actor? (who will make the plan happen?)
  Question any resolutional issues.
  Ask how much will it cost?
  Ask, will everyone be in favor of doing the plan? 
  Question if the plan be politically popular?

Usually there is little you can gain from Inherency & Significance questions but occasionally something can come out. Mainly you will want to look at the harms.
  If the plan can do all this (avoid harms, gain advantages) why aren't we doing it now?
  This line of questioning is most effective if your judge says he is a "stock issues" judge.
  Why can't the SQ eventually solve the problems?
  (for a stock issues judge - you may want to determine the type of inherency 
  which exists and question it -
    Is there a barrier (law or resource issue) which prevents solvency in the SQ?
    Is there an attitude that is a barrier to solvency in the SQ?)
  Expose the harms (why must the plan be implemented now? 
  why can't we wait or not do it?)  
  For each harm -
    Ask how does the plan solve or avoid the harm?
    Question whether there other ways to solve the harm
    or is the plan the only way to solve it quickly?
    Ask why the problem won't go away on its own? 
    Ask if people are already working to solve the problem?

More often instead of specific harms, there are advantages which need to be understood.
For each advantage -
  Is the plan the only way to achieve the advantage? Why?
  (if yes) then ask if the advantage is inherent to the plan?
  (Note if the advantage is inherent to the plan and you take out solvency,
    then you take out their inherency which destroys their case)
  Ask how the plan achieves the advantage?
  When will the advantage happen? How long after the plan is implemented?
  Is there a chance the advantage will still not be realized?
  Will the plan completely realize the advantage? 
  (for example, if the plan claims a terrorism advantage,
  ask if the plan will completely solve terrorism or will terrorism still exist 
  and how much terrorism will still exist?)

Question the general claims
  For example - If they claim war will ensue:
  Ask how will that happen? when? why?

1AC cross-x of 1NC
Clarify any items missing from the flow this will help your partner get started sooner on prep for the next speech.

If topicality was attacked
  Clarify the violation
  Ask why the NEG definition is better than AFF?

For each disadvantage -
  Question the uniqueness? 
  Isn't the disad already happening now?
  How does the DA link to our plan?
  Is there anything else that cause the DA?
  Precisely what aspect of the plan triggers the DA?
  What's the threshold? (how much change is required to trigger the DA?)
  If there is a brink, what is the precise brink? 
  What exactly is required to push us over the brink?
  Every step (internal link) must have its own uniqueness and threshold, 
    ask about them if you think you have time
  How long before the DA triggers?
  Will it happen suddenly or over time?
  How bad will it be?

For each counter-plan
  Make sure you ask for the text of each counter-plan when they read one!
  Ask for the CP status (conditional, non-conditional, etc)
  Cross-x it as if you were the 2NC crossing the 1AC. (see above)
     a. question the topicality (it should be non-topical)
     b. question the solvency
  Ask what makes it competitive?
  Have them specify the net benefit 
  (90% of time it will be a DA that does not link to their CP)
  If the net-benefit is avoiding a DA (which it almost always is) 
  Question it like any DA (see above)

For each Kritik
  Ask them if it is an "a priori" issue?
  (meaning must it be considered first before anything else - 
   they will usually say it is)
  Ask them why it is a priori, what makes it critical to a high-school debate?
  Ask them why the judge or anyone should accept the underlying philosophy 
  behind the kritik?
  Ask them if the kritik only applies to your plan and if so 
  find out if is uniquely linked to your plan.

1NC cross-x of 2AC
Clarify any items missing from the flow this will help your partner get started sooner on prep for the next speech.
  Always ask for the text of any permutations.

  If you ran a counterplan and they introduce a permutation, 
  you want to understand this very well.
    Ask about the perm - how does it create a test for competitiveness?
    Question the perm evidence.

  If they ran turns of your disad links or impacts ask them to explain these.

2AC cross-x of 2NC
Clarify any items missing from the flow this will help your partner get started sooner on prep for the next speech.

  If they link disads to your perms use a disad line of questioning
  If they extend their disads with new link evidence, etc. 
  continue to question the link, uniqueness,etc.
  Focus on what you perceive as their most important arguments and question them.
  This CX, in general, is much more dependent on the flow. It is very important, however, 
  to understand their main arguments completely, before the rebuttals.
  Remember this cross-x breaks up the NEG block so the more effective your questions
  the more work you may be able to force upon the 1NR as they attempt to reduce 
  the impact of your penetrating cross examination!

Answering Cross-X
  • Look at the judge (I don't care what other debaters tell you - look at the judge only)
  • Be wary of traps
  • Don't waste time talking about things that are not related to your position. This is a common tactic to take you out of your area of expertise and set you up for traps.
  • Don't make absolutist or universal claims (using words like always, every, never, etc)
  • Remain confident and don't let them see you sweat.

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