Richard Harwood's article about voting and the implications of low voter turnout in a democratic society {Outlook, Oct. 28} was a fine example of the convoluted logic often applied to this issue in recent years. Harwood's thesis was that most political subjects are beyond the realm of the average voter's understanding. His solution? A "professional voting class."

More than 100 million Americans read below the ninth-grade level, Harwood reasoned, and functional illiteracy breeds political illiteracy. Furthermore, political illiteracy is exacerbated by the notable absence of civics classes in American educational curricula. "Our democracy limps along," he said, because many of us "have no opinions of any kind on many of the great issues of the day, and those we have are often worthless."

With this in mind, he concluded that "we can no longer govern ourselves even in the abstract sense." So why not a professional class of voters to "relieve us of the need to pretend we understand" big government?

Surely, we cannot accept this perversion of Thomas Jefferson's axiom that the American government derives its power from "the consent of the governed." Harwood sees all this as a justifiable antecedent to voter apathy rather than as a manifestation of the same failings that produce non-voting Americans. Yet how do we overcome the electoral hole we have dug for ourselves?

We begin by educating young Americans about what it means to vote and teaching them how to vote responsibly. We should once again expect our educational system to produce adults who can read the newspaper, understand the relative context of an issue presented on the evening news and even recount the struggles of those who have fought and died for the right to vote here and around the world. Moreover, the education of all American voters must include one important lesson: democracy requires preventative maintenance.

John D. Rockefeller once expressed the belief that "every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity an obligation." Indeed, the inherent responsibility that accompanies the right to elect our leaders is to cast a consistently well-considered vote.

Government will not seem accessible and politicians will not seem accountable until American voters make them so. Thus, we are charged with educating the American electorate rather than allowing its stratification and dismissing its potential, as Harwood would have us do. -- Joe M. Rodgers The writer is chairman of the Vote America Foundation.