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Cross-X by Joe Miller


by Joe Miller

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Over the course of a year, the author follows selected members of a Kansas City high school debate team. The almost-all black Central High has been declared academically deficient, yet Ms Rinehart, a white woman who is the debate teacher, has led award-winning teams for several years. Only read the first 10 chapters; did not feel the story was moving along. (The title refers to "cross examination.")
  Salsabrarian | Feb 2, 2016 |
Though I was unable to finish this book due to its extreme length, it was well-written and I enjoyed the parts I did read. Though the focus of the book was on the debate tournaments, it was the parts between that talked about the students that made the story more real and meaningful. Therefore, the biggest problem of the book is that it tries to tackle too many subjects -- poverty, education, race, health care -- all of which are important, but which serve to stretch the book into a monolith. ( )
  elizardkwik | Feb 12, 2009 |
(#20 in the 2008 book challenge)

A journalist spends a year (and change) following a high school debate team from Kansas City Central. At first I was a little wary this was going to be one of those Stand and Deliver type stories, because Central is a predominately black, academically at risk, urban school. It didn't go down that path, fortunately. The book itself is structured a bit along the lines of a formal debate (not in a gimmicky, in your face way, thank goodness). The author provides in-depth profiles of several of the debate students, and the day to day, competition to competition stories are interesting and move along briskly. At the same time, Miller also raises more philosophical issues about debate, pedagogy, public policy, race and class. During his time with the debate team, his own ideas about these things change -- although I was a little disappointed with the way he wrote about his self-described epiphany. It's the kind of thing where it must have seemed so obvious to him, after a year covering debate, that he doesn't take a lot of trouble to articulate much to the reader, who presumably has only been reading his book for a few hours. I'm happy to take his word for his own experiences, but he didn't manage to convince me (following the debate structure of the narrative) to cast my ballot. It also left me wondering why he observed inconsistencies related to race and gender fairly early on, yet he became so much more invested in those surrounding race.

Grade: A-, although in parts it seemed a little like an intriguing magazine article that went on a bit.
Recommended: To people who were involved with any kind of competitive speaking in high school or college, and people interested in race and class as they play out in educational settings.
  delphica | May 5, 2008 |
This is a terrific story about inner city high school kids (Kansas City, MO) who go to a high school that has lost its accreditation and is classified as "academically deficient" but who nonetheless rank nationally in debate. How do they do it? Yeah, dedicated teacher. Yeah, personal attention.

In some ways, it's a story that has been told frequently, but one of the things that makes this story stand out is that the writer, who is white, is writing as much about the process of realizing the assumptions that he has made about the kids, not even necessarily the most obviously racist ones like Inner City Black Kids Are Scary, but more like Debate Is A Meritocracy or Debate Is Color Blind or even the whole idea about how the white debate coach and the white journalist can help the kids overcome institutional and personal obstacles, and challenging the assumptions in the context of his relationship to the kids, to debate in general, to himself, to other adults in the debate world, etc. It is GREAT, very engaging.

The only real criticism I have is that he too frequently ends a chapter by saying, "Little did I know that just a few days later, my entire outlook on debate -- indeed, my entire outlook on life -- would change!" I mean, it's mostly true, but his entire outlook changes like five times in the book. And framing it as he does, it seems like he's going to switch opinions 180 degrees each time, when really it's more like uncovering layers. ( )
  janey47 | Dec 19, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374131945, Hardcover)

In Cross-X, journalist Joe Miller follows the Kansas City Central High School’s debate squad through the 2002 season that ends with a top-ten finish at the national championships in Atlanta.
By almost all measures, Central is just another failing inner-city school. Ninety-nine percent of the students are minorities. Only one in three graduate. Test scores are so low that Missouri bureaucrats have declared the school “academically deficient.” But week after week, a crew of Central kids heads off to debate tournaments in suburbs across the Midwest and South, where they routinely beat teams from top-ranked schools. In a game of fast-talking, wit, and sheer brilliance, these students close the achievement gap between black and white students—an accomplishment that educators and policy makers across the country have been striving toward for years.
Here is the riveting and poignant story of four debaters and their coach as they battle formidable opponents from elite prep schools, bureaucrats who seem maddeningly determined to hold them back, friends and family who are mired in poverty and drug addiction, and—perhaps most daunting—their own self-destructive choices. In the end, Miller finds himself on a campaign to change debate itself, certain that these students from the Eastside of Kansas City may be the saviors of a game that is intrinsic to American democracy.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:04 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

The debate team at Central High School in Kansas City, Missouri competes with elite suburban and private schools and winning against all odds. This is their journey in triumphant 2002.

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