For female president, voters must cross party lines Regarding "Public warms to woman president" (Jan. 7): It is true that there is still an "immense barrier" against electing a female president based on the fact that 18 percent of Americans stated that they wouldn't vote for a woman running for that office. The only practical way to overcome this continuing bias factor is for a significant number of women to cross party lines and back a female candidate of the other party.

This happened in the past when larger numbers of Republican female voters created a female gender gap and backed women such as Ann Richards (in her first run for governor of Texas) and Senators Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer in California.

The major question for Liddy Dole is whether pro-choice Democratic women will vote for candidate Dole regardless of her pro-life position on reproductive rights. There is no doubt, however, that the time has come for both parties to consider running female candidates for the top of their tickets, for the office of presidency or vice presidency.

George A. Dean Southport, Conn.

Classrooms need (Army) discipline

Your recent editorial, "Educational Catch-up" (Dec. 29) states that about 50 percent of all freshmen entering college need remediation in math and language arts.

As an Army officer, I was in command of 135 men, but I found it much more difficult to control 30 junior high school students. This was true in the latter five years of my 29 year teaching career. We were given to understand by the younger generation of administrators that unless it involved guns, knives, or drugs, we shouldn't send a student to the office. The best teachers can't teach under present conditions. The problem is discipline.

Robert H. McCrea Obrien, Fla.

Assumptions flawed on Social Security

Anyone reading "Security slips through the safety net" (Dec. 28) would conclude Social Security has been performing poorly.

This is not the case. When Social Security was last overhauled in 1983, it was anticipated the system would support itself for at least 75 years. The Social Security trust fund actually has more assets now than predicted in 1983. Social Security's "crisis" is due, not to poor past performance, but to changes in assumptions regarding future performance. Most of the supposed deterioration in Social Security's financial position is due to a reduction in the assumed rate of improvement in productivity (real wages), from 1.5 percent per year in 1983 to 0.9 percent each year in the most recent trustees report.

The combination of low productivity growth with the reduction in the ratio of workers to retirees from the current 3.3 to 1, to 2 to 1 in the early decades of the next century, is a sure recipe for prolonged economic stagnation. If living standards are maintained or improve in the next century, the assumptions underlying the Social Security crisis must be incorrect. Increasing the productivity growth assumption sufficiently to predict stable living standards in the next century would by itself solve most of Social Security's financial difficulties.

Eric J. Klieber, Cleveland Heights, Ohio

Lists ... long and prosperous

Regarding "Does it really matter who was the greatest commander of the Starship Enterprise?" (Jan. 8): While I respect columnist Jeffrey Shaffer's contention that some lists and national contests do not merit the intense public debate they generate, I do maintain that it is critical to the cultural heritage of our civilization to acknowledge Patrick Stewart as the premier captain of the Enterprise. But I agree with Mr. Shaffer about that other, less consequential stuff.

Laura Matthews Santa Monica, Calif.

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Because of the volume of mail, only a selection can be published, and we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. Mail letters to 'Readers Write,' and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to oped@csps.com

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