We’ve all seen it. Debaters who use cross-examination or cross-fire to expound on the speech they’ve just made. This is not only ill-advised but also obnoxious and shows a clear lack of understanding. More than that – if the debater knows what they’re doing…it’s intellectually lazy and abusive. Debaters think it makes them look in-control or sexy. From a judge’s perspective, it looks childish, desperate, and borderline rude.
Here are the reasons you should never do it. Ever.
All debate rounds are split up into three distinct sections, all with a purpose.
Constructive speeches: The introduction and creation of new arguments. Essentially, the debaters are setting up their board-state.
Cross-examination: The questioning of your opponent’s arguments and refutation.
Rebuttal speeches: The crystallization and synthesizing of current argumentation intertwined with refutation.
No sane judge would like to hear new arguments in the rebuttals. Likewise, using cross-examination time to make an argument or point is abusive.
But, you say, clash is supposed to happen in CX, so how can you NOT make a point sometimes? Valid question. Debate has strictures and guidelines to keep the conversation orderly, and keeps the footing equal. If we transgress these boundaries (like stating an argument in CX) we show that we have no respect for an even-keeled discourse, and we care more about winning than respecting our opponent and the rules.
If you haven’t brought it up in your speech, don’t bring it up as a point in CX. The obvious exception is if you are setting up a DA, or other argumentation that you want to start in CX. In this case, you can ask questions about your material, but don’t use the time to soliloquize.
But beyond that, making points in cross-ex confuses newer judges and detracts from the clash in the round.
Don’t do this: “In your last speech you said (x), but that is wrong for (insert reasons).”
Do this: “We responded to your argument, could you briefly interact with our response?”
Don’t do this: “Yeah, okay, I know you just answered my question but you’re wrong for these reasons.”
Do this: “Great, thanks for your answer, we’ll get to that in our speech.”
Or this: “Cool, so if that’s true, do you think your answer would still hold scrutiny under (insert response question).”
So how should you respond to someone who is abusing cross-ex?
Make sure you use the right tone of voice with these; you don’t want to come across as snarky or disrespectful.
“Cool. Was that a question?”
“Great. Thanks for that information.”
“Was that something that you wanted me to answer, or were you just stating it?”
Disclaimer: Some forms of Parli actually encourage you to use POI’s or points as actual arguments. In British Parli, this is the case all or most of the time. In high school, not so much.