On the eve of the election, seniors from the Richmond High School Health Academy debated the merits of Measure N, a controversial tax on the city ballot that would levy a one-cent-per-ounce fee on sugar-sweetened beverages.
About 150 people—including Councilmember Jeff Ritterman, who crafted the measure, listened to the arguments from the 12 students, who had spent the last four weeks developing their positions on the issue.
Richmond Academy students debate: Yes or No on Measure N?
The idea to host the debate came from their English teacher, Mike Mannix, who said he saw an opportunity to take a local conflict and inspire critical thinking in the students.
Exploring local issues through debate
Listen to Mike talk about where the idea came from: Mike Mannix
The debate was Oxford-style, which Mannix explained to the audience meant that attendees voted on the way in and would vote again on the way out, based on which side they felt was more persuasive.
Students from each side presented opening arguments and rebuttals, took questions from the audience, and then ended with closing statements.
Much like the real Measure N debate in Richmond, the students zeroed in on key arguments, like soda’s contribution to obesity and the fiscal effects it would have on small businesses.
No on N: David Serano
Listen to David talk about why he would vote No: David Serano
Yes on N: Jacqueline Robles
Listen to Jacqueline talk about how learning about N got her excited about politics:
The yes on Measure N side came out victorious, gaining seven votes.
Mannix said he intends to continue hosting yearly debates with his students to engage them in local issues.
“Regardless of what happens, the dialogue on these really important issues of health needs to continue,” he said.