I didn't know whether to laugh or cry at the irony of The Post's op-ed page last Monday.

First, William Raspberry did the now-familiar hand-wringing number about our "unabashedly money-oriented" youth. His column raises some good questions about ethics, but in essence he's still just blaming the victim. His solution: we must teach ethics and values to our children "before they reach college age."

The problem is that Mr. Raspberry is advocating the impossible. Values can't be taught; they can only be shown. You can't teach a course on the mechanics of honesty or compassion; however, you can be honest and compassionate with people. Only then will they learn.

The fallacy and danger of Mr. Raspberry's argument was shown in an adjacent column by Carl Rowan (who has also publicly lamented the "values crisis" among our youth). Mr. Rowan announces that he has weighed all the "moral" arguments about the social benefits and costs of lotteries and has now "sorted it all out": "bring on a national lottery!" He acknowledges that a lottery is simply a tax on the poor, but argues that the revenues are desperately needed for education and other social programs.

Well, if the money is needed why don't we examine the problems and then honestly and compassionately raise taxes or increase charitable giving to assist those who need it? Instead, Mr. Rowan offers this "lesson" in values for our young people: we as a nation are undereducating our youth and undersupporting the poor, so let's legalize gambling and then skim some profits off the top!


Columnist Carl Rowan has seen the light and now says, "bring on a national lottery!"

Now that "I've sorted it all out," says Mr. Rowan, "Why shouldn't the federal government take some of the gamblers' money so as to reduce a federal deficit that cowardly politicians won't touch with a direct tax increase?"

Then, further, Mr. Rowan proclaims: "If funds from a national lottery were earmarked for equalizing educational opportunities, and for enabling millions of youngsters to live in decent environments, the blessings to America would be almost incalculable."

It's difficult to ascertain just which noble objective Mr. Rowan is propounding here: Does he want to reduce the federal deficit or does he want to spend more on social programs? He can't have it both ways. LEON J. FISHKIN Alexandria