Debate Tip of the Week: Use CX To Help Impact Analysis

One component of impact calculus that is routinely ignored is how important cross-examination can be.

I’ve been working with my middle school classes on weighing impacts, and it’s truly one of the most important and difficult parts of debate. I routinely return to my friend Allen’s article about impact calculus, and you should certainly read it if you haven’t already. But one component of impact calculus that is routinely ignored is how important cross-examination can be.

The fundamental issue to resolve when debating impacts is the fact that you and your opponents usually (implicitly) carry fundamental value differences, and resolving those differences is difficult and time-consuming. An LD round without shared values is often entirely dedicated to that one single issue. In policy debate it can absorb the round, or, more frequently, be treated glibly.

The difficulty with opposing values is that to resolve the conflict you have to dive back through layers of abstraction until reaching some kind of agreement point from which discussion can progress. For example, with our immigration topic you’ll often see impacts relating to EU security against impacts to potential migrants. How do we resolve this? One team says that the EU should prioritize security for current residents and the other says that the EU should prioritize migrants on the same level as current residents.

The first team might appeal to some conception of governance that necessitates treating current residents above those outside of that government’s political boundaries. The second team might appeal to the inherent equality of all people. We can agree on the equality of all, but does that mean that governments should routinely interfere in the actions of other countries it thinks are treating people less-well? Or does national sovereignty hold some import? If it does, how much? What principles can we appeal to in order to resolve that related but parallel question?

Already this is too much to reasonably discuss in a policy round and we’re hardly nearer coming to a resolution about what ought to be valued. What’s the shortcut? Cross-x.

If you’re prepared enough you know where most rounds are going vis a vis their value assumptions. If you can see that end state you can try to find common ground–basic principles–that the other team may agree to early in the round.

The challenge is to not make these questions either too specific or too broad. If you make them too specific they’ll either be rejected or too narrow to be useful. If they’re too broad they’ll similarly be too vague to be useful. I can’t speak on where that goldilocks zone in the middle is in the abstract, but look over the particular value situations you’ll find yourself in and work to generate a series of questions that gives you the jump-start you want on impact weighing.

Attend our pre-regionals circuit training and practice identifying these value clashes and more!

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