THE TIMKENS sent their child Laura off to college with a check for $7,000 for tuition and thought that was the end of it. But soon after they received a letter from the Dean of Academic Studies.

"We are happy to announce that we have instituted a remedial reading class for college freshmen and strongly advise that your daughter Laura participate in it. If she doesn't, it is our opinion that Laura will not be able to keep up with her studies. The cost will be $250."

Timken read the letter, "I thought Laura could read," he said to his wife.

"So did I. I think the problem is she can read, but she has no comprehension of what she reads."

"What did they teach her in public school and high school?"

"I have no idea, but if the college says she needs remedial reading we better see that she gets it or $7,000 will go down the drain."

A few days later they got another letter from the Dean. "The English Department has brought to our attention the fact that your daughter Laura cannot write. They have recommended that she enroll in the remedial writing class which we started two years ago when we discovered this was a common problem for most college students. If you agree that Laura should get this special help please send a check for $250."

Timken was now very angry.

"How did she get in college if she can't write?"

Mrs. Timken was much more sanguine about it. "Laura can write. She just can't write complete sentences."

"She went to school for eight years and she can't write a sentence?"

"Don't you remember? They were much more interested in Laura's thoughts than they were in how she put them down. The teacher's main concern was with expanding her consciousness."

"That's hog wash," Timken said. "They made an illiterate out of my daughter."

I believe that's a bit strong. Laura graduated with honors in analytical consciousness raising."

"But she can't write."

"I'm sure the college can help her learn to write. After all it is an institution of higher learning."

"So now we have to pay $250 for something they should have taught her in grammar school."

"Don't you remember when we went to the PTA meeting years ago, and the principal said it was the school's responsibility to make good citizens out of the students, and the parent's responsibility to teach the children how to read and write. Carlton, we're the ones who failed."

Timken sent in the check, and was not surprised to find another letter waiting for him a week later.

It read, "It has come to our attention that no one in the freshman class can add, multiply, subtract or divide simple sums. We feel it is urgent that this deficiency be corrected early in student's college career. Therefore, we are setting up a special remedial arithmetic course. The fee will be $250. If you do not want your daughter to take this course we cannot guarantee she will graduate."

Once again Timken went through the ceiling. "I thought Laura got A's in math in high school."

Mrs. Timken said, "That was conceptual math. Her courses had to do with the advanced integration of numbers. She never could add or subtract them. Don't you recall when you complained about it. Laura's teacher told you, 'She can always learn to add and subtract when she gets to college."