CX Part 1- some don'ts

The purpose of CX is to ask questions that will help you win the debate, that should be pretty non controversial. However a lot of cx habits have been annoying me lately so here we go:

You should probably also read this post, not going to duplicate.

Don’t ask about cards the other team didn’t read- if you aren’t paying close enough attention to their speech to know what arguments you have to answer why should I be paying close attention to yours?You can’t just assume any card on a piece of paper they brought up for their speech was read. Pay attention, flow.

Don’t ask about potential arguments against what they just said in their speech. Examples of this

“You read mead, why didn’t X economic decline cause the impact”.

What do you hope to happen with this question? I can see one of 3 outcomes

1. They mess up answering- oh but wait, they get more speeches after that to fix it so you have accomplished literally nothing.

2. They BS you- which happens 99.9 percent of the time- congrats you have just wasted some cx time

3. They say something like “make that argument and we will answer” – while a true response also kind of dumb but less dumb than your initial dumb question.

This is a point I have brought up a few times in conversations and people seem to disagree with me, I would love to see the rational for why its a good idea to preview arguments you are about to make and what function this serves. It is much better to set up arguments in CX than make them. So for the econ example above, instead of saying “what about X recession” , ask questions that set up you making the argument about that recession like “how far does the economy have to decline for your impact” or similar threshold related questions. This is actually getting them to commit to something they can’t back track on later that will help you win your argument.

A sort of similar line of questioning that I think is totally useless as used now is the “what cases meet your interpretation” question about T. This is useless because

A. if they are any good at T they will have to say that in a speech, so why let them do it for free in your CX

B. The 2AC usually reads a prescripted T block anyway

C. There are rarely any meaningful follow up questions that use this question as part of a strategy.

Again- what are you trying to accomplish? Get them to admit no case meets? Not going to happen. Let’s say best case scenario they say “I can’t think of any”-what has this achieved for you? If the 2NC goes for T and lists some, its not like you can say “Whoa whoa whoa, extend cross-x, the 1N couldn’t think of any, this is a VI”.

“your evidence says A, but we read a card that says B”

This isn’t even a question, so I guess I never see people “ask” it, but I see it done in CX all the time. You are making an argument- thats not the point of CX. Think about it- why do we have a part of debate where the point is to ask questions and not make arguments- why not just abolish cx altogether and add time to speeches? Because you are supposed to be displaying a different skill set- you are supposed to be skillfully setting up future arguments, not clumsily making them. Another example of this is ” our card is from a professor, why should we prefer your card from a staff writer”. The only conceivable goal of this question is to make an argument. You are not doing what you are supposed to be doing.

“What about X random issue you didn’t address in your last speech”

If they didn’t address it and its devastating why are you brining it up in CX instead of a speech? This can only hurt you. No judge is going to go “my god, they didn’t address that?” sign their ballot and walk out.

Making little comments before moving onto your next question like “Well I don’t think this card says that” or “well we’ll see” etc.

We get that you are arguing against their position, we assume you disagree. This is CX- ask a question, don’t make arguments particularly stupid arguments that are just an unwarranted statement of your opinion. What are you trying to accomplish with this? Has a judge ever given a decision and said “upon first reading I thought their card DID say X, but then as I was about to fill out my ballot I remembered that thing you mumbled in CX about how it didn’t and low and behold- IT DIDNT!!”

This one applies to more than just cross-x: save your facial expressions and exasperated groans/comments for complaining about how I screwed you after the round. I remember occasionally seeing people do this when I debated, but it seems that this is a trend going out of control (it could just be that I notice it more as a judge since I spend more time looking at the debaters) . It even spills over to when the other team is speaking, I notice teams waving their arms and contorting their faces while either mouthing or actually saying “WHAT” or “NO!”. What are you trying to accomplish with this? Do you think I was buying what the other team said but then saw your face and thought “oh well if he’s not buying it, no sale here madame”. It just makes you look like a total loser. Especially if you have to give a speech still- why don’t you try prepping instead of overreacting to every single thing the other team says. Tarantino agrees

But seriously- SHUT UP when the other team is giving a speech. I don’t want to listen to you when its your speech time, let alone when another part of the debate is going on. I don’t know when people started to think it was ok to converse loudly with their partner or themselves during an opponents speech. If you have to communicate with your partner, lean over and whisper in their ear at a level where they can barely hear you. People have also started talking to the partner of the person on the other team who is talking to find evidence or something- where did this come from? Esp if its during the 2NC the 1N is under no obligation to do your bidding- that is their time to prepare their speech. You had time before the 2NC and get cross-x after it to get your stuff back. In general the neurotic need to get everything you read back is stupid- if you have some familiarity with your evidence it wouldn’t be such a pressing need. Any card you read in the 2AC should of been read through several times in the process of writing/practicing blocks.

Not related to cross-x but another little rant- 1A’s should have read through all 2ac blocks before getting to the tournament. Two reasons for this

1. You have to give a speech about them so it might behoove you to have some idea what they say. Perhaps jot down some notes about crucial cards/arguments so that you are prepared to give a good 1AR with less prep.

2. No one is perfect, if you write a ton of 2AC blocks odds are some of them will stink. With no external check (someone else reading them) you aren’t going to discover they stink until it is to late. Writers have editors for a reason- the 1A should check through all the 2AC blocks, and you should maybe even have a conversation about some of the more important ones. If you show up at a tournament as the 1A having no idea what the aff answers are to major neg arguments you are unprepared.

“Fair enough”. This is usually said in CX when someone thought they had a devastating question and then the other side gave them an answer they weren’t ready for. Somewhat stunned, the asker now says “Fair enough” and moves on. This displays a critical problem- the lack of a reasoned line of questioning. You should think ahead of time how you are going to react to various answers they could give. If they give one you hadn’t thought of, you should think about it and ask a follow up. One thing I never see people do in CX is take 5-10 seconds and think after an answer before asking a follow up. I think most people think they have to just keep asking questions for some reason. CX is your time, use it how you want. One way you should want to use it is by thinking up thoughtful lines of questioning based on how the other team answers your questions. This applies to answering questions as well- sometimes you will need to think about an answer for a while, you shouldn’t be ashamed of that. It is not a virtue to spout off before thinking.

Some points on answering questions.

Way too many people think they are funny and give snide response answers when they are not. Laughter is a good form of feedback- if in a CX you have already made 5-6 snide comments and didn’t get any laughs, that is prob a good indication you should lay off and go for straight answers. Even if you are really funny, more than 2 or 3 jokes when you are supposed to be answering questions is pushing it. In cx you should be giving precise, accurate answers to questions. Anything else is basically wasting the other teams time. Some think that is a legitimate tactic- to draw out answers unnecessarily long, or to dodge questions/play dumb about them. I do not. If you feign ignorance in CX and then in your next speech make arguments that show you were faking it, I am likely to nuke your points/not give you credit for your new found understanding of the issue.

I see this one a lot in K debates when questions about does the alt include the plan get asked- the neg usually blusters around and pretends they couldn’t possibly understand what the aff is saying until in the 2NR they go “The aff has conceded our starting point argument- this is basically a delay CP- rethink and then do the plan”. This kind of playing dumb wastes everyone’s time and makes you look lack a jackass. Same with “what are the net benefits to the CP”- people who say like “what isn’t a net benefit to the CP” or ” its your job to…” are, in my mind, trying very hard to not win speaker awards. Why people think it is legitimate to basically lie or obfuscate in CX is beyond me

Responding to a question with a question- stop that. Usually this is done when the other team has asked a black and white yes or no question and you don’t want to answer it with a yes or no. Sometimes instead of asking a response question the team will instead launch into a big explanation of why they refuse to answer. Remember- CX is for asking and answering questions, its not for making arguments – even when you are the person answering questions its NOT for making arguments. Explaining why you don’t want to answer is an argument. Answer the question, and if need be, you can explain yourself later. Here is how this should go

“A or B”


“They concede in CX its A”

“When faced with a black and white a or b yes we would chose A, but that is rhetorical sleight of hand that rigs the game”


Alternatively it can go like this

“A or B”

“C or d”

“this is my cross-x”

“is it?”

“X or Y”

“We don’t think it’s as simple as X or Y so I’m not going to answer that”

Which exchange looks better for the team answering questions?

Never say “we don’t take a position on that”. The main reason is you have in 99 percent of cases in fact taken a position on it. Somehow people think that refusing to answer these sort of K link questions is a successful tactic. Think about it- how many debates have you seen decided where the judge said “I voted aff on no link- the CX wouldn’t explain a concept they clearly talked about in the 1AC, so the neg did not win a link”.

Let’s look at an example, the aff reads the Khalilzad card. The neg is trying to set up a security K link.

“What is security?”

“We don’t take a stance on that”

Well yes obviously you do you moron. Even though you don’t have “observation 2 security IS…” you clearly talked about the concept of security in your 1AC. Not answering/clarifying what you think security is allows the neg to insert it for you, when they get up and say ” the concept of security is a social construct” you can’t now say “actually its XYZ” because you already forswore that strategic option.

These K questions are SO DUMB for the neg to ask because they give the aff a chance to put their claims in context FROM THE GET GO which makes winning your links much harder. So lets say the aff read food stamps with Heg and hunger. Same line of questioning-

“What is security”

“Well in the SQ security is usually thought of as simply the safety of the nation state, however we think security is a combination of state and human security, thats why it’s important to recognize both threats to international order and individual people”

Now you are hosed. Unless the aff actually answers with “Security is an objective concept measured through quantitative social science methods…” no answer to this question is going to help you.

There are even worse examples. Lets say the neg says

“how do we know china is a threat”

Usually the aff answers with some nonsense like “we don’t take a position on that” – what better K link for china threat could there be then the aff saying “we dont say why china is a threat, we just say they are”!!.

One last example,

“Why didn’t you talk about XYZ issue in your 1AC”. Most teams either say “thats not relevant” (which is usually the neg link) or “we don’t take a stance on that” (which is def. one of the negs links). Sometimes the aff will say “due to time constraints” which is slightly better but still not great. I’ll leave this one as a dan brown/24 esque cliff hanger to be picked up as the starting point of part 2.

3 thoughts on “CX Part 1- some don'ts

  1. Layne Kirshon

    Question related to your T example

    one Q that nearly always comes up in CXs of the 1NC on T is "what case under your interpretation has answers to the states cp/doesn't suck"

    this seems like a pretty good line of questioning b/c most cards people read like Smith '3 are like "health housing education aren't T, but homemakers and shoelace-tiers are"

    that said, most CXs on this suck b/c people are just like "Well our caselist says childcare which is head start and new trier reads that…." and then the CX Q just kinda dies.

    do you think this is a productive line of questioning? if not, what is a more effective way on the aff to address this issue or should we dispense of it and just make the args in the speech?

  2. David Petersen


    It sounds like you are expressing your concern for the 2NC getting up (after you make an argument about how they narrow the topic to much or don’t allow for NEEEE cases :)) and listing a bunch of cases, but the problem is that the Aff would get beat on the states c/p and politix or w/e. A pretty important argument.

    If my guess is correct I don’t know why you can’t wait till the 1AR? Or start the debate sooner in the 2AC and just predict what their possible cases will be and give a quick reason in the 2AC why that is a bad aff/gets killed by states.

    In the end I think cx is not the most effective first for the reasons above that SP explained and second the team can always bullshit a reason why the affs in there list have an answer to the states cp. Its a d/a to their interpratation so why not just pop it on them in a speech.

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