Certainly every generation is going to have its revisionists, and the '60s deserve their share of criticism. But it is a shame to see Jonathan Yardley revert to so many oversimplifications in dismissing that period as "an empty decade" {Style, July 20}.

Even if one accepts his contention that the roots of the civil rights movement lay in an earlier period, can he really dismiss all that followed, including open housing, antipoverty programs, subsidized housing and even home rule in the District of Columbia? While he chooses to tar the '60s with the brush of sexual permissiveness, he ignores the emergence of a mature and active feminism. And in claiming that the '60s were responsible for the "decline of the American university," he ignores the tremendous and lasting impact that the influx of young intellectuals into college teaching in the '60s and '70s has had on the quality of higher education.

While it's true that universities were shaken by student ferment in the '60s and that many have recently asserted more directed requirements for general education, it is not fair to blame current educational problems on the '60s. If colleges go back to more structured requirements, it is not just to correct their own permissive standards but also to ameliorate current societal pressures to push young people into premature professionalism. In urging accounting or business majors to read history and literature, among other things, today's faculty are hopeful that all we have learned since the '60s will not be lost on the current generation. -- Howard Gillette Jr.

I now realize how narcissistic I was to take part in peace marches, social causes and political campaigns. I also recognize the dearth of quality literature during the period as demonstrated in the work of Denise Levertov, Robert Bly, Gary Snyder, Ken Kesey, Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Brautigan. I could almost laugh at the impoverished lyrics of John Lennon, Jim Morrison, Paul Simon and Joni Mitchell. How stupid I was to find any insights in the thoughts of R. D. Laing, Theodore Roszak, Paul Goodman and Norman Brown. How absurd I was to question the goals and content of higher education.

I also now realize how silly it was to think that the civil rights movement and the women's movement had anything to do with the '60s. But most of all, I now see that my anxieties about so many of my contemporaries coming home in body bags from Vietnam were really nothing more than "a revulsion against national service."

Thank you, Jonathan. Because of your essay, I will no longer wallow in the false nostalgia of the '60s as I sit in a traffic jam on the Beltway, listening to the radio about the benefits of the Gold Card.

-- Maurice L'Heureux