IT MAY BE all well and good that people across the land are joining in a national lament over the state of education in this country--but how many will be content merely to agonize and grouse when they could do something to make a difference? For all Washingtonians--including those who have no children in either public or private schools, but who do care about the next generation of adults in and around this city--we offer a homework assignment, to be completed by Nov. 8:

1. Read up on the D.C. school board election campaigns, which have just begun with the passing of the petition-filing deadline for candidates on Wednesday afternoon. First, find out whether you are eligible to vote; whether your ward is voting only for a citywide member or for a ward representative as well.

2. Take in a convenient candidates' forum if you have time; or ask someone you respect for guidance on what to watch for in the way of issues and personalities.

3. Obtain a ballot and exercise your franchise, being careful to exclude, if possible, any obvious or potential turkeys, small-time politicians, opportunists with no inkling of what does or doesn't happen in the schools, racists and demagogues--or people who would destroy the current good vibes being generated by the work of what is generally a slim board majority working with Superintendent Floretta McKenzie.

For starters, we're looking at a majority of the seats this year: a total of six seats on the 11-member board: one at-large and one each from Wards 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7. In each instance, the incumbent is running and faces more than one challenger. Who should stay and who should go? We have some thoughts, but there is more to read and watch and share in this space as the campaigns unfold. And the choices are for every voter to help make. The danger lies in the harm that voter neglect can cause--and you don't need to go back many years to find out what that can mean.