A senior Education Department official has criticized the National Education Association for "an incredibly obvious drive to bring political indoctrination into the classroom" in a proposed curriculum on the dangers of nuclear war.

In a sharply worded article published in a department newsletter for youth groups, Gary L. Bauer, deputy undersecretary for planning, budget and evaluation, said the NEA had prepared "leftist indoctrination aimed at turning today's elementary students into tomorrow's campus radicals."

He was referring to "Choices," a curriculum "unit" on nuclear war that was tested recently by teachers in 34 states and was prepared in cooperation with the Union of Concerned Scientists, a group critical of nuclear power. The curriculum material was prepared for use in junior high schools.

"Even a cursory examination of the material reveals that no choices exist in the curriculum," Bauer said. "Instead, the curriculum seems carefully contrived to develop a mindset in our unsuspecting young people by instilling them with fear, and to enlist them in a campaign to bring about unilateral disarmament."

Phil King, a spokesman for the NEA, said yesterday that "everyone worked to keep political bias out of it" in preparing the curriculum material. "The unit is not intended to advance specific political positions," the report says in a note to teachers