"Dissecting Columbine's Cult of the Athlete" [front page, June 12] was a perceptive and startling article. The writers caught the new paradigm in high school education: administrators who are increasingly drawn from the coaching pool regard the athletes in the school as a team to be protected at all costs.

It only takes the preferential treatment of a couple of athletes to show the entire student body the lack of integrity and consistency in respect and discipline in the school. After having taught in a high school in a nearby district for 15 years, I believe that the scenario described in this article may not have caused the Columbine tragedy but it is definitely part of a corrosion that exists in many many schools in this country.

MARTY GALE

Mercer Island, Wash.

Lorraine Adams and Dale Russakoff should be commended for exploring the root cause of what makes high school a living hell for those not part of the athletic elite. The "cult of the athlete," however, is just one part of a larger sickness in our society -- the sickness of celebrity worship.

This sickness permeates our society at all levels, from publishers putting forth poorly written (or ghost-written) tripe based on the celebrity status of the "author" to the use of multimillionaire celebrities to persuade people to buy this brand of product, service, religion or political veiwpoint.

It's time for Americans to start learning to think for themselves.

LARRY TAGRIN

Gaithersburg

About the article by Lorraine Adams and Dale Russakoff: I wonder how many other communities have similar problems, and people just don't want to believe it.

When I was growing up, adults didn't hesitate to question and correct dubious behavior of any young person up to and including 21-year-olds. I certainly don't hesitate to correct behavior in younger people now.

I think the percentage of parents, schoolteachers, administrators, deacons, ministers, Sunday school teachers, judges, lawyers, mayors, legislators -- in short, all of us -- willing to tolerate the kind of behavior outlined in the article is on the increase. If the human race is going to survive and become more peaceful, then society needs to find a way to better control or reverse the trend.

FRED HUFFMAN

Richardson, Tex.