I was pleased and interested to read the excerpts from Raisa Gorbachev's dissertation printed by The Post {Outlook, Dec. 13}. But The Post cut one particularly fascinating passage.

At the end of Mrs. Gorbachev's dissertation, the reader learns that:

''During the research process, the author carried out propaganda and organizational work in connection with implementing the recommendations which emerged as conclusions from the dissertation. The author repeatedly delivered lectures and led discussions among propagandists at seminars conducted by the CPSU Krai Committee . . .''

Note what is taken for granted: that propaganda is part of the research process. The understanding that scholarship and propaganda are distinct enterprises -- indeed that they are opposed to one another -- is entirely absent.

A fundamental test of glasnost is whether the Soviet Union is willing to embrace the principle of free inquiry and the pursuit of the truth wherever it might lead -- whether, in other words, the Soviet regime is now willing to acknowledge the difference between research and propaganda. Short of this, glasnost would seem to be, as Natan Shcharansky has put it, ''not a form of freedom. It's just a new set of instructions on what is and isn't permitted.''

WILLIAM J. BENNETT Secretary of Education Washington