DEAR ABBY: If you ever get tired of writing your advice column, you should consider the legal profession.

You had a letter in your column recently concerning an engagement ring. The question: If a man gives a girl an engagement ring and four hours later they break up, should the woman return the ring?You said, "The gentleman has every right to expect the lady to return the ring. And if she doesn't, she's no lady."

I recently read an item in the Iowa City Press-Citizen that said, "Engagement rings become real gifts only when the wedding happens and must otherwise be returned, the Iowa Court of Appeals has ruled."

The judges said it didn't matter who did the jilting. The court rejected as archaic earlier rulings that gave the ring to the person who was jilted. - IOWA ABBY FAN

DEAR FAN: I've had that "who owns the ring" question put to me in a variety of situations. Examples: The couple enjoyed a three-year engagement with "sleeping-over privileges," so the woman felt that she had EARNED the diamond engagement ring. (Well, if she "earned" it, that makes her a professional.)

In another situation, after a two-year engagement, "Romeo" met another damsel who stole his heart. So, to assuage his guilt, he let Damsel No. 1 keep her ring.

I'm with the Iowa judge. An engagement ring signifies a promise to wed. If the wedding does not take place, the ring should be returned to the person who paid for it.

DEAR ABBY: "Shocked," "Educated" and "Disillusioned Teacher" were all addressing the lack of educated high-school graduates in this country. This is not a new issue. Politicians, educators and businessmen have been lamenting this problem for years. I do not pretend to have the solution to this crisis; however, there is something every parent could do to alleviate the problem.

When my son's first-grade teacher told us that "John" was not doing very well in school, my wife and I allocated one to two hours an evening to help him study while we actively coached him. John was not happy about the loss of his free time for play or television. (And we were not happy about our own loss of relaxation time.) We felt that the sacrifice was necessary to make him a good student before he developed bad attitudes or bad habits.

I am happy to report that our study time has made the family closer. John is now doing better in school. He no longer needs a lot of time to complete his studies, and we have not missed the time that we spent with him. Sign me . . . CATCH THEM WHILE THEY'RE YOUNG IN MUNDELEIN, ILL.

DEAR CATCH THEM: You are absolutely right. One cannot expect children with poor study habits to blossom miraculously into scholars without supervision and additional coaching from a caring parent or caretaker. You made an investment in time and patience, and it paid off.

1991 Universal Press Syndicate