It must have been a slow news day for The Post to have given Secretary of Education Bill Bennett such a spread for his innovative approach to the high school curriculum {Dec. 30}. His "new" James Madison High proposal reads as though it had been copied out of the local Walt Whitman High School curriculum. When will the secretary become serious about discussing some of the more pressing problems in education?

When will Bill Bennett discuss with equal passion the horrible high school dropout rate -- approaching 50 percent in many urban high schools -- that continues during his watch? What evidence does the secretary have that the classical education he proposes will help reduce the high school dropout rate?

When will Bill Bennett discuss the kind of educational program required for that neglected majority of high school students who are unlikely ever to earn a college liberal arts degree, but who need more structure and substance in their school program to connect students' experience in high school with what they experience in the real world?

When will Bill Bennett discuss how schools can best meet the tremendous range of individual student differences in intelligence, socio-economic background, learning speed and styles, which can be found in any public high school classroom? How does his standard classical college preparatory curriculum meet this range of differences?

When will the secretary of education talk about the loss in the continuity of learning caused by a highly mobile society, the breakdown of family life and a host of other factors resulting from an increasingly urban society? What will his standard classical curriculum do to eliminate this loss in the continuity of learning, which is probably the single largest problem facing public school teachers today?

When will Bill Bennett address the problem of the growing mismatch resulting from the rising need for work-place skills and the simultaneous production of unskilled workers? What will his classical education proposal do about improving the impoverished vocational/technical education programs that have languished for attention during this administration?

How will his standard classical curriculum improve intergroup human relations, reduce the crime rate in schools and motivate the unmotivated?

It appears that Bill Bennett's James Madison proposal was just another attempt to grab a headline or two on a slow news day. Or on second thought, maybe it was an attempt to divert attention from the most pressing problems facing our public high schools.

DALE PARNELL President, American Association Of Community and Junior Colleges Washington