It has been suggested that students today are more fashion-conscious than students of the past. It is not uncommon for teenagers to spend hundreds of dollars on clothes, jewelry or other material goods in the effort to be accepted or keep up with the latest styles. Are students today too materialistic? Who sets the fashion trends? Does "fashion-consciousness" affect a student's academic performance?

Behold! Now stands a stage. Set upon it are hundreds of youths decked out in the latest styles and fashions, waiting for the 9 o'clock fashion show to begin. Each contestant gazes critically at the others' fluorescent, expensive sweatsuits and jackets.

The bell rings and the models saunter to their respective stages as the audience (those not fortunate enough to have the money to be models) linger around as the contestants perform their procession. Those with identical attire slide into a pas de deux for the onlookers.

Unfortunately, this is a description of an average morning in a D.C. public high school. There are instances when one strongly believes that he or she is better than another because of the way he or she dresses. This, however, is not true. Those who believe this will be destined to grope aimlessly through life in search of a true identity.

Fashion-consciousness may have ill effects on a student's academic performance. A student may be too ashamed to attend school because he does not have the "proper" clothes.

This is definitely Armageddon. The battle is between those armed with a sense of value and set priorities and those armed with an arsenal of distorted views, weak minds and no self-esteem.

If we can get rid of the hegemonic rule placed over us by the fashion designers, our generation will win the battle of exploitation. We may even develop a new respect for ourselves and for our peers. STEVEN McPHERSON School Without Walls

Students of today are extremely materialistic, just as the students of yesterday were and still are. "You are what you wear" was once, and still seems to be, the prevailing idea in European-influenced society. And since we live in one such society, this idea applies to us also.

The idea really hasn't changed since the days of old, but the level of its influence has. The fact is that the parents and the children of our age are not to blame. The materialistic idea of Capitalism is to blame! This materialism can be defined in one word: commercialism. In these times our world seems to leak commercialism from every corner. It's in all of our magazines, all of our movies, and every single TV show you can think of.

All forms of communication are now used to trap parents and their children into commercialism. WALTER DEVORE Dunbar

Most students today are very materialistic. As far as who sets the fashion trends, all it takes is somebody to wear something different and it goes.

But I don't think fashion-consciousness affects a student's academic progress at all. Some say that if they dress in the latest styles, they are able to perform better because they feel good about themselves. If they are not dressed fashionably then they don't perform well.

This seems a bit twisted. This sense of feeling good about oneself is merely social acceptance. This is mere ego-tripping at best. Students must realize that coming to school with the right attitude -- the desire to learn -- is much more important.

Why assign value to one's appearance? Isn't the mind priceless and therefore more valuable in the end? Basically, the whole issue is just another excuse for not doing well in school. MELODY FLOYD Eastern

In every generation there are some people born to dictate fashion, while others are born to follow, and there are a handful who march to a different drummer. Then you have the people like me, who don't care if Yves St. Laurent is alive, or if peach is the color scheme of the Eighties. We go through life laughing at the "Dedicated Followers of Fashion" whose only ambition in life is to out-dress {fashion critic} Mr. Blackwell.

I personally do not think that fashion interrupts a student's education. Just look at Oscar Wilde and the Aesthetes, who had dazzled the literary world and were the dandies of the 19th century. The students who usually dress in designer clothes are the ones with a superior grade point average; "dress for success."

There has been "Fashion" since Alley Oop wore a leopard skin, and there will always be "Fashion." But "Fashion" should not be a label or used as a competition, but as urban camouflage. A man should not be judged on appearance or the color of his Adidas, but on the cut of his jib. CONRAD PERRY Wilson

There is a familiar saying: "clothes don't make a man," which is now at a point of contradiction. In a sense one should be conscious of his appearance, but not overly conscious. The consciousness should be a factor when it concerns itself with efficiency, not when it concerns itself with fashion trends only.

Often, students make it their business to wear a nice outfit to school for display. Students get so hung up on their looks that they become engrossed in the label on the back and the amount of money spent on clothes rather than on getting an education.

If there were such things as Calvin Klein chalkboards, students would probably pay more attention in class. MARCIA COLE School Without Walls

Students are getting too materialistic because fashion trends are being set everywhere; in magazines, on television, on the street.

Fashion-consciousness has a negative effect on students' academic performance. Many students will be late for school because they were ironing a shirt, deciding on a pair of shoes to wear or "primping."

There is just not enough emphasis on education: reading, writing and articulation. Conversations among today's teenagers are not of future goals, but future material possessions. The students of today should learn to accept one another for who they are and not what they have. LAUREN WILLIAMS Coolidge

Students today are more affected by the fashions they wear than the grades they achieve. Students are more concerned with being in the "in" crowd than with academic success. Some students will not even come to school unless they can wear the latest fashions.

The over-emphasis on fashions has affected the academic success of many students, because students pay more attention to what others are wearing than to the curriculum they are to study.

Drug dealers have influenced the fashions. They wear fashionable clothes and gold chains. They own expensive bags and sweat suits. These fashions have become a substitute for honor grades, self-discipline, good citizenship and overall success.

Students must realize that academic success will eventually lead to material wealth, not the other way around. RONI ELLINGTON Spingarn

Here we go again, placing the blame for society's ills on teenagers! Yes, many teens are too materialistic. They feel that wearing expensive clothes and gold jewelry is the only way to be accepted into a fashion-crazed society.

Many really do not want to spend their hard-earned money on the things everyone else is wearing. They would really like to buy less expensive articles with more meaning such as a sensible outfit for church or even materials for school. They feel their money means more than designer tennis shoes or a $1,000 gold rope. They don't relish being "broke" as many of the pace-setters often are.

Unfortunately, teens are succumbing to the temptations the adult world has lured them into. Consider the sleek cars our heroes on TV whirl around in or count the number of big cars that line your street! Look at our parents coming and going, working and scheming day and night to get ahead. Consider how much money it costs to run for public office or to get a college education, or even to buy a decent meal.

I think the adult world should reconstruct its values and set better examples of prudence and sensibility for us to follow. LEE HARRIS Roosevelt

I think the only way to solve the problem is to come up with more ideas to teach kids how to buy less expensive clothes that still look "classy." Being "classy" seems to be the entire point to these trends.

One idea would be to hold a contest to see who could have the smartest outfit for the least amount of money. Another idea would be to hold a "smart shoppers" class. LISBET FREY Wilson

What would you call a black male sporting a $70 purse, a pair of $150 athletic shoes, a $200 running suit and a $300 gold chain? In 1987, we call him a student.

"Fashion-conscious" is an understatement when it comes to our city's youth. When area youths are spending hundreds of their parents' hard-earned dollars on apparel that will be in and out of style in a matter of weeks, there is a problem. When children own four pairs of athletic shoes, but wouldn't think of using them for sports, there is a problem. And when crimes are being committed for the purpose of getting money to keep up with fashion, there is definitely a problem.

Can we blame the parents for not instilling a sense of moderation in today's youth? The bottom line is that something must be done, or this world will be run by a flock of brainless "pea-coqs." ROBERT ROGERS Banneker

In today's public schools, most of the students spend more time choosing their clothes than focusing on classroom activities. Many students worry more about hair styles and catching the latest fashion trend than achieving the highest grade point average.

In our society, the value placed on education is way below the value placed on fashion. The average student is highly materialistic, with his values in life very mixed-up.

With so many different fashion trends coming and going, who sets these trends? An individual must allow another to become the trend-setter. Many people follow the fashions of a person they admire the most. The people who are highly admired set the trends. It is not the fault of the trend-setters, but the fault of the followers. The followers must be strong enough to break the fashion trend.

I believe that fashion trends are not the problem, but that the values of individuals are. If an person believes that fashion trends are more important than education and paying the bills, then this world is in trouble. DEBBIE CASTRO Notre Dame "Speak Out" Topic for October 29:

In recent years, low student turnouts at ballgames, pep rallies and school dances have led many students and administrators to believe school spirit is a thing of the past.

How would you rate your "school spirit?" Do students find school-sponsored events interesting? Why or why not? What are some ways to renew student interest and participation in school events?

Responses should be no more than 150 words in length and typed or written legibly. Political-style cartoons on the topic are welcome and should be drawn on posterboard. All submissions should include the student's name, school and grade.

Responses should be addressed to: Weekly High School Section The Washington Post 1150 15th St. NW Washington, D.C. 20071

Deadline for responses is Monday, Oct. 19.