As a teacher, I find Patrick Welsh's pieces on education usually on target. "When the Street and the Classroom Collide" [Outlook, June 20] was no exception except for his assumption that "ghetto" behavior is largely a function of lower income.

Prince George's County, where I teach, has an affluent African American community. The behaviors Mr. Welsh described have little to do with economics and everything to do with parental attitudes and the pervasive influence of television, movies, music and video games that glam- orize thuggery, ostentation and antisocial behavior.

The "ghetto" behavior I see extends across income levels and race. Plenty of well-to-do white boys mimic Eminem or his latest incarnation. Mr. Welsh's description of hardworking African students puts the lie to claims that kids underperform because they lack economic or social advantage. These kids are often poor, barely speak English and, worse, are frequently picked on by other students. Yet they excel.

A few years ago Charles Barkley famously refused to hold himself out as a role model for kids. He was cheered for his honesty. Sports heroes such as Mr. Barkley and his counterparts in television, movies and music are this age's nobility. Yet, for all their fame and fortune, they seem to know nothing of noblesse oblige -- the idea that with power and riches comes obligation.

JONATHAN F. KEILER

Bowie