The ''education'' of David Stockman, as described in a current Atlantic Monthly article, offers lessons for the American public, too. The first of these is that the pressure to get federal spending and taxing under control in an equitable way must be sustained despite the obstacles discovered by budget director Stockman during the past year. Indeed, there is still promise in some of the specific means he failed to achieve as well as in the basic philosophy which he saw overridden by the ''hogs'' of special-interest politics.
Mr. Stockman's office called the article grossly misleading, but it did not disown the ''off-the-record'' quotations which author William Greider said he had published under agreed conditions. A central one has received little attention in the furor over such tidbits as dubbing the Kemp-Roth plan for across-the-board tax cuts a ''Trojan horse'' to bring down the top rate from 70 percent to 50 percent. This central quotation sums up a reformer's hopes for radical change. It would mean legislative action shaped by policy rather than power-brokering, with subsidies for the affluent as well as others cut back according to the merits of the subsidies not the political clout of those claiming them.
''We are interested in curtailing weak claims rather than weak clients,'' said Mr. Stockman amidst plans to cut what he regarded as ineffective programs for poor communities as well as comfortable ones. And: ''We have to show that we are willing to attack powerful clients with weak claims. I think that's critical to our success - both political and economic success.''