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18-Year-Old Trumps Ageism, Becomes Youngest Elected Official In Maryland

by Carol Scott

Edward Burroughs, an 18-year-old college freshman who battled ageist stereotypes as he ran for School Board, is running a victory lap today.

The 2010 high school grad beat his opponent, a retired teacher and principal who slammed him as a "child," for a spot on the Prince George's County, Maryland School Board. Despite the fact that Burroughs had an exhaustive list of qualifications and experience, he had to fight to be judged on what he brought to the race instead of his birthdate. As guest writer Dave Moss wrote earlier this week, Burroughs was "old enough to have his legs blown off in Iraq, but not old enough to avoid patronization and condescension as he campaigns to improve the schools he recently graduated from."

It's easy to point to federal education reform, big-time philanthropic donations and innovative programs as the most important things affecting schools today. All of these are valid and important, but the truth is, local school board officials often hold the biggest sway over K-12 education. They can hire, or fire, the superintendent; they can make sweeping decisions about curriculum; and they approve how funds are allocated to different departments and programs.

If you've ever sat through a six-hour school board meeting (and oh, I have), you know that this route to change is not usually the most riveting. As a single voting member of a school board, Burroughs is going to be poring over maintenance reports, scanning proposals that won't come to fruition for years, and hearing from parents, students and teachers about their concerns, from the trivial to the outrageous.

But Burroughs has something going for him that the other school board members don't. He graduated from high school mere months ago. He's bringing a valuable student perspective - as well as his other extensive qualifications - that is sorely needed when it comes to school reform. Changing our education system has to come from the inside as well as from the President and the Department of Education. A smart, motivated teen throwing his hat in the ring is great news.


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Posted in: News on November 10, 2010 @ 8:33 PM

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