COLLEGE MAJORS in Obfuscatory Politics need not apply, because all they seem to know about government is how to announce a plan, study, review or other "bold initiative." But if a serious, immediate, ambitious operation to rescue thousands of District public school children from educational distress interests you, how volunteering for the new "tutor" corps?

The idea of "Operation Rescue," as it is being called, is this: Under the volunteer direction of former council chairman Sterling Tucker, the school system seeks at least 1,000 people willing to work side by side with teachers, students and parents in the city's classrooms -- not in some distant future, but right now. The help will go to those children in the first, second and third grades whose reading and math skills were not yet strong enough to merit promotion at the half-year; while it may be true, as acting school superintendent James Guines said yesterday, that the current pupil progress and promotion plans need thorough review, these youngsters are not "failures" -- they are children who need extra help, hope and time to step ahead with a chance to succeed.

So what's involved? Volunteers will be asked to tutor in math and/or reading for a total of four hours a week, in two two-hour sessions, preferably during the school day. There are 40 target schools, mostly in Northeast and Southeast, where the greatest concerntration of these children are.There will be an orientation session before the 10-week tutoring begins on Monday, March 16.

That's the story -- all it needs now is leading characters: people who can help make something good happen in Washington's classrooms, people who are willing to reach out and help lift some children out of holes they didn't dig. This morning, the new phone lines will open for all who seek more information or who are ready and willing to sign up: 724-4482. The central schools office at 415 12th Street NW, 20004, has application forms, but we'll make it even simpler: Any piece of paper (tear out this page, if you like) will do: Just write your name, address, home and work phone numbers; the names, addresses and phones of two personal references; and any preferred hours and schools.

The ultimate success of this program cannot be forecast, but those who are working to make it succeed do know already that it won't accomplish a thing without committed volunteers.