Cross Ex - The Division Technique

An admission is something your opponent says that you can use against his advocacy. And of all your options, an opponent's admission is the strongest form of evidence you can use.

Good as Gold

The judge has to choose between the available positions in the round; once you and the opponent converge on one, it's as good as gold. The judge has no choice but to accept it.

Admissions are devastating, and that's why they are pursued so zealously by beginning examiners. While the single-minded pursuit of an admission will cost you, you should be ready to leverage one if your opponent gives it to you.

At the same time, most witnesses realize the power of an admission. That's why most cross-examinations are chaos: witnesses are determined to not give up an admission on *anything* and will burn your time or remain as non-committal as possible to play it safe. Then examiners amp up the aggression, which only makes the squirming worse. It's a vicious cycle: but by opening with more strategic questions, you can break it.

The Division Technique

Let's say your opponent makes an argument: "The sole purpose of government is to protect human rights."

You want to just blurt out: "Aren't there other purposes?" but that question won't get you the answer you want. Since witnesses won't just concede their arguments outright, you can't directly attack the conclusion of their argument.

Instead, follow the Division Technique: a method for creating cross-ex questions. You start with an argument of your opponent's you want to challenge (the sole purpose of government is to protect human rights.) Then, break down this argument into its supporting assertions, accounting for whatever analysis the opponent used.

    A government should only do what no one else can.
    Only a government can protect human rights.
    Anything else can be solved by a private entity.

Therefore, a government should protect human rights, and nothing else.

New Territory

The Division Technique doesn't target the conclusion: it targets the premises. Let's illustrate some patterns you can use against each one:

   Do you support the U.S. Constitution?
   So if it’s in the Constitution, you support it?
   That's right.

Later, in your speech: “My opponent conceded in cross-ex that anything in the Constitution is a valid pursuit of government. But the Constitution goes way beyond human rights. It includes bankruptcy laws, currency regulation, post offices, roads, and a host of other pursuits. We can only conclude that valid government pursuits are much broader than just human rights.”

Let’s try it again with: “Only a government can protect human rights.”

   Has an individual person ever protected their rights, such as in self-defense?
   Was it a one-time thing, or would you say it happens all the time?
   On a daily basis.

In your speech: “My opponent claimed that governments have to protect rights: no one else can! But in cross-ex, he admitted that individuals protect their own rights all the time. I’m not for anarchy, but my opponent’s logic just doesn’t hold up. Governments aren't the only entity that can protect people.

Now with: “Everything else can be accomplished by a private function.”

   Do you have anything against counterfeit laws?
   So you think it’s good that you can’t just print money in your basement?
   Suppose we eliminate the Federal Reserve. We let companies and individuals print as much money as they like. Would that be good or bad?

In your speech: “My opponent claims that human rights are the only purpose of government. But in cross-ex, he admitted that he supports currency regulation: something unrelated to human rights. Obviously, the purpose of government is much bigger: it requires that they stop counterfeiting, they enforce zoning laws, and they maintain public roads."

Learning It

You can learn the Division Technique with practice: take any argument from your last practice round, and try breaking it down into its supporting assertions. There's usually at least half a dozen, but you only need one or two to sink the ship.

As you train your brain to identify premises, you’ll find that admissions come more and more naturally. Over time, your cross-examinations will become more powerful than ever.