The article ``Homeless Families Still Live in the Shadows,'' Nov. 19, a sensitive portrayal of young homeless parents raising children on the streets of San Francisco, suggests something is terribly wrong with our national priorities. At least 50,000 and perhaps as many as 1 million children currently have no permanent place to call home. Yet the federal government has allocated very little to ensure that these kids get an education and avoid the tragic lot of their parents. Hopefully the situation is changing. As the author of new legislation designed to knock down the barriers preventing up to 100,000 homeless children from attending school every day, I am heartened that many school districts have begun to address the plight of homeless kids. Despite a shortage of funds, school systems across the country are paying bus fares - and in some cases cab fares - so that children in shelters may continue to attend schools in their former neighborhoods. School officials have discovered that for many homeless children - like first-grader Carmel in the article - school represents a rare source of hope and continuity in an otherwise tumultuous existence.
But providing transportation alone is not enough. We need innovative programs to help homeless children succeed once they get to school. Next year the federal government will spend $7 million on such programs - a small amount, but at least a beginning. The alternative, as the article suggests, is to stand by and watch a new generation of children fall victim to ``years ... of sadness and abandonment and dysfunction and hopelessness.'' Louise M. Slaughter, Washington, Congress of the United States
Pesticides and pollution The article ``Millions in US Drink Water Containing Nitrates,'' Nov. 15, mistakenly refers to nitrates as ``a naturally occurring chemical frequently found in pesticide residues.''
While nitrates do occur ``naturally,'' nitrate pollution results primarily from the use of man-made fertilizers derived from fossil fuels, and has little or nothing to do with pesticides. Much of this pollution is a consequence of America's demand for lush green lawns, a demand driven in recent years by the chemical lawn care industry which makes it all so easy.
The EPA report cited in the article points out that the most frequently detected pesticides in groundwater also result from lawn care use - a breakdown product of a weed killer.
As the world moves to an ethic of pollution prevention, not pollution control, the media must present accurate descriptions of environmental issues. John F. Sieckhaus, Milford, Conn., President, Ecolotech, Inc.
Honoring Norman Cousins Norman Cousins's semi-monthly commentaries in The Christian Science Monitor added a very special dimension to the discussion of societal values and political priorities. His mastery of prose - his creative use of a metaphor, his skillful application of an illustration, and his easy style - affected the hearts and minds of so many of several generations.
Drawing upon his extensive knowledge of religion, philosophy, literature, and history, as well as on his experiences as personal diplomatic envoy for Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson and editor of The Saturday Review and World magazine, Cousins was able to bring us closer to achieving peace and justice through world law.
Norman Cousins - one of this country's intellectual gentle giants - has left a legacy of ideas for the enhancement of humankind's common future. F.H. Duperrault, Mountain View, Calif.