[WORDS ILLEGIBLE] Lawrence Feinberg [WORD ILLEGIBLE] about the beginning of a new school year in yesterday's paper.It was a [WORD ILLEGIBLE] but joyless report on the problems [WORD ILLEGIBLE] school systems face.

Enrollment is down. Job opportunities for teachers are down. The purchasing power of a teacher's salary is down. Academic achievement is down. Student interest in getting a good education is down. In fact, only one thing appears to be up milltancy among unhappy teachers.

The shrinking number of teaching jobs was explained a few days ago in a Wall Street Journal story that appeared under the headline. "As Their Ranks Sweel, Women Holding Jobs Reshape U.S. Society." A subhead added. "Working Wives Help Shelter Families From Inflation: Later, Shorter Marriages."

More than 58 percent of women with school-age children are working now, the story said. "More surprising, so are 41 percent of the mothers of children too young to attend school."

Ironically, amony the women in the labor market there are many with degrees in education who can't find teaching jobs. The Journal explains, "Too many other women are choosing to work instead of have children, thus drying up the need for schools - and schoolteachers."

Our story on the reopening of schools and the Journal's story about working mothers are, in newsroom jargon. "situationers" rather than spot news stories. The aim of a situationer is to give readers an update on what has changed recently in a situation of such large scope that most movement within it is slow and ponderous.

It has been a long time since working mothers were considered spot news. Even as far back as 1900, one in every five women was employed. By 1920, the percentage was 23, and it moved to 26 in 1940. World War II brought Rosie the Riveter and her sisters into the war plants by the thousands and by the time the war was over, 37 percent of American women were on somebody's payroll.

After the war, some of these women went back to being homemakers, and there was a temporary dip in female employment. But the trendline soon moved upward again.

If you have a mind to, you can engage in a "Whither are we drifting?" soliloquy as you contemplate this trend, but you will be wasting your time. For better or worse, we are now committed to an economic system in which mothers work, either because they prefer employment to housework or because inflation makes it necessary for them to work in order to maintain a desired standard of living.

The time mothers spend with their children has deminished steadily in recent decades. During these same decades, there has been a decline in academic achievement and a rise in aberrant conduct among children. If you suspect that these phenomena may be interrelated, keep your suspicion to yourself. A lot of people don't want to hear about it these days. I know. Iget told off by the Now Generation every time I bring up the subject.

There was a time when it was thought that full-time mothers can inspire children to love learning for its own sake, as well as for its economic advantages. There was even a time when it was thought that, to develop attitudes conducive to achievement and good character, a child needed the supervision that only an attentive father-and-mother team can provide in a good home atmosphere.

Today, we think either one part-time father or part-time mother is enough, and if the children don't learn much at home or in school, they can pick up the rest while they're hanging around the shopping center at night.

With school costs so high and taxpayers in revolt, perhaps we should stop deploring these developments and look for a way to live with them. We could, for example, close all our school and ask our teachers to disguise themselves and "go underground." Incognito, the teachers could hang around the shopping centers at night and attempt to speak a little educational content into the juvenile bull sessions. Instead of paying for the maintenance of school buildings, we would provide only a street light or two as a focal point for the nightly gatherings.

Yes, I know this is an absurd suggestion, but we live in an absurd world. It is a world in which our high schools were graduating so many students who couldn't read a street sign or make change for a $5 bill that legislatures had to demand reforms.

Happy new school year, everybody. See you down at the 7-Eleven tonight. Texas bogeyed the fourth hole. But Kite came back with four straight b