If this were a perfect world I would agree with John Agresto's sentiments in his article "Why Latin? Why Greek?" {op-ed, July 22}. After three years of high school Latin I can concur with his conviction that studying the classics can help us "to see the roots of our principles, ideas and culture." However, after even more years of following world events and reading recent history, I suggest that we would be better off it we learned more about existing cultures and ideas that are not our own.

Russian and Chinese cultures owe little to what we call the "classics." Even in this modern world where technology has brought us a tremendous capability to communicate, we remain unable to rid ourselves of fear of these other two major world powers. This is primarily because of our own ignorance about the people we are trying to communicate with. What good would it do to bask in the beauty of Virgil's "Aeneid" when the missiles start flying because of a disagreement that came from a misunderstanding? Why are newspapers compelled to define "glasnost" every time they use the word?

Indulging in the glories of our own cultural roots when we are so oblivious to the different worlds around us is an ethnocentric luxury we cannot afford. When I see the questions "Why Latin? Why Greek?" I have to think "Why not Russian? Why not Chinese?". ROBERT C. LIGHT Alexandria

Studying the ancients certainly appeals to one's romantic and aesthetic inclinations, and it may even distinguish one so tutored (according to one school of thought) as being a true representative of the "educated."

However, the modern student should beware of the romantic lure of the classics; it is a trap in contemporary society. For while it may satisfy one's sensual faculties and increase one's understanding of the civilizations that preceded us, in pragmatic terms it is a one-way ticket to virtual starvation. The nation is littered with the PhDs in humanities earning wages at the poverty level or standing in unemployment lines.

In the uneven contest between history and culture of the ancients and today's utilitarian syllabus, the winner is indisputable. The underemployed or unemployed PhDs clearly attest to that fact. DOLLY Z. HASSAN Silver Spring