Talking about a 'taboo' topic Dialogue: The president of Baltimore City Community College wants people to know that racism is a major problem and that talking about it might help.


RACE IN AMERICA today, says James D. Tschechtelin, "is a taboo topic, like sex in the Victorian era. Now we talk about sex all the time and repress talk about race."

Tschechtelin, president of Baltimore City Community College, is on a campaign to encourage a dialogue on race -- one that, for a change, isn't sparked by an "incident." He said BCCC has taken a number of steps to raise the issue to the level of civil dialogue.

Tschechtelin, 55, knows a little about the topic, and that's his point: You can be white and address racial issues.

He's headed a predominantly black institution for eight years. "I'd been thinking about the sum of my experiences at BCCC," he said yesterday. "I was thinking racism is an immense problem in the United States, and also that things aren't getting any better. If both of those are correct, the next question is, 'What am I doing about it?' "

Tschechtelin delivered a paper at the annual meeting last month the American Association of Community Colleges. The title: "Reflections of a White President of an Urban Community College About Race." Forty of his fellow administrators across the country have asked for copies, he said.

Whites are generally reluctant to discuss race, Tschechtelin said, and many whites believe it is only blacks who think or talk about it. He quoted the Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts: "I've lost count of the times well-meaning white people have advised me to quit being black and 'just be a person.' "

It's all right to talk about race, Tschechtelin insisted, and it's not too late. Thirty years, after all, have gone by since the Kerner Commission warned of "two societies, one black, one white -- separate and unequal."

Plenty of work still to do.

Both teachers and pupils learn at campus schools

The "lab school" is on the comeback trail.

Most teacher education colleges in Maryland used to have on-campus elementary schools where education students did their practice teaching and professors carried out research.

But one by one, the lab schools disappeared as colleges of education turned to "real" schools for training and research. The former Towson State University's Lida Lee Tall school, converted in its last years to a private school, was the last Maryland campus school to go.

Nationally, there are 114 campus schools, down considerably from the movement's heyday in the 1950s, according to Wendell McConnaha, who directs the lab school at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls.

Yet McConnaha said there's a "bit of a renaissance." Boston University recently opened such a school, and new lab schools are popping up in Europe and Russia, he said.

"It was like going to a private school that was public," said Imogene Horton, who was in the first graduating class in 1927 from the campus school at Salisbury State University on the Eastern Shore. The Salisbury school operated from 1925 until 1968.

Horton recalled small classes of six students and field trips to campus concerts and dramas. She said her father told her "some of the parents around campus were hesitant to send their kids to the school because they didn't want them practiced on."

Many of the lab schools eventually became private schools. Perhaps the most famous, because it was founded by philosopher and educator John Dewey, is still going strong at the University of Chicago after 102 years. The university pays half the tuition for employees' children, who constitute about half of the school's 1,600 students.

Salisbury officials are planning a reunion of campus school alumni as part of homecoming this October, but records have been lost or misplaced. If you qualify and are interested, contact the university alumni office.

Returning student fell in love with science

"I raised it above my head and showed everybody," Charmaine Gregg said yesterday. She was talking about the degree in medical and research technology she picked up Friday at the University of Maryland, Baltimore commencement.

Gregg, who turned 43 yesterday, left Northwestern High School in 1973 with a diploma and dreams of college, but she ran straight into marriage and pregnancy. Twenty years, three daughters and several jobs later, she landed at Baltimore City Community College, where she ventured into science classes.

"When I learned about bacteria and plasma, I fell in love with the whole idea of science," she said.

Two years ago, Gregg, who lives in the Pimlico area, came to the attention of officials at the University System of Maryland, who were looking for ways to promote the idea that education is a seamless enterprise from childhood through college. They created a scholarship just for Gregg and named her recipient of a "2+2+2" grant -- two years high school, two years community college, two years senior college.

Before her graduation last week, Gregg stopped by the system headquarters in Adelphi to thank employees who raised the $1,200 a year for her scholarship as part of their annual charity campaigns.

Pub Date: 5/27/98

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