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Students debate the sugar tax

High school students play out real Measure N debate

on November 6, 2012

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

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

Yes on N: Jacqueline Robles

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.

Listen to Mike Mannix talk about where the idea came from.
Listen to Jacqueline Robles talk about how learning about N got her excited about politics.
Listen to David Serano talk about why he would vote no.


  1. Tony Suggs on November 6, 2012 at 11:15 am

    Would have been nice to read some of the actual arguments present by both sides.

  2. […] from the Richmond High School Health Academy argued the validity of Measure N in an Oxford-style debate, which gave audience members the opportunity to vote for or against the measure before and after […]

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