I appreciate Franklyn G. Jenifer's attempts to reassure us with regard to "Afrocentricity" {"Afrocentricity Is No Cause for Alarm," op-ed, Nov. 19}, an educational theory that seems to be gaining momentum in urban public school systems and on many college campuses.

Howard University's president tells us that the term merely implies "that a school system or university that is predominantly African-American should infuse its teaching and learning with cultural and intellectual emphasis that reflects the identity and heritage of its dominant constituency: African Americans."

Further, we are assured that this development is neither new nor remarkable, for "there have always been institutions that reflect and relate to particular constituencies." The examples given are Brandeis and Yeshiva, with their emphasis on the Jewish experience; Notre Dame and Georgetown, under Catholic auspices; Vassar and Barnard, dedicated to the education of women; and finally West Point and the Naval Academy, which have "strong ties to the nation's military establishment."

Mr. Jenifer overlooks that Yeshiva, Brandeis, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Vassar and Barnard are not public institutions, subsidized by the taxpayers. They are private colleges, supported by parents who often make considerable financial sacrifices to pay for the particular orientation provided by that school. The military academies are indeed public institutions, presumably run to serve the national interest; they are nonsectarian and open to any qualified applicant, regardless of race, religion or sex.

The even more serious error is to equate the particular orientation of some private institutions of higher education with public elementary and secondary schools, as if these departures from a common curriculum were comparable. They are not, of course. When the public schools start teaching young children a self-consciously specialized culture and value system differentiated along racial lines, we have ample reason to be apprehensive about the long-term societal effects of such a splintered curriculum.

Yes, we do need institutions that specialize in the study of African languages, culture and politics. Quite understandably, the best of these specialized institutions will probably be our historic African-American universities and most especially the distinguished institution headed by Mr. Jenifer. But the public primary and secondary schools are definitely not the place to start such specialization. GERDA BIKALES Washington