Feeding the hungry is a nonpartisan issue

Your Aug. 23 editorial, "A practical antipoverty step," is right on the mark. After employment, the food-stamp program is our first line of defense against hunger in the United States. Barriers to participation must be lowered. Replacing hunger with food security is a nonpartisan issue. All candidates for election to Congress or the White House should support the Hunger Relief Act.

William Simpson Whitake Scranton, Pa.

Gore's questionable fundraising

It seems that poet Robert Pinsky's logic is flawed in his Aug. 15 column "The poetry of politics." I don't want to punish Al Gore for Bill Clinton's disgraceful "Monica" affair, but I do distrust Mr. Gore because of his and Mr. Clinton's very questionable fundraising tactics during the 1996 election campaign.

Helen E. Simcox Columbus, Ohio

Tunisian women deserve recognition

I read with a lot of interest the series exploring the status of Arab women (Aug. 7-11). However, the stories failed to give due credit to the women of Tunisia for their pioneering role for the advancement of women in the Arab world. On Aug. 13, 1956, Tunisia became the first Arab nation to ban polygamy as a part of landmark legislation guaranteeing equal rights for all women.

Based on a progressive interpretation of its heritage and building upon a time-honored reformist tradition, Tunisian women have been able since then to achieve further gains. In Tunisia today, we take pride in the fact that the principles of co-education, equal treatment for men and women in the workplace, and the right to vote and be elected in public office are not only sanctioned by law, but are supported by all sectors of society.

Tunisian women represent 11.5 percent of members of Parliament - the highest among Arab countries and one of the highest in the world. And, as a result of a pro-women affirmative action-type initiative by President Ben Ali, 20 percent of the country's 4,144 local council seats went to women. Women are also represented in the executive and judicial branches.

Overall, women have come to represent one-third of the workforce. They constitute 22 percent of lawyers, 47 percent of teachers and 30 percent of university professors, and 63 percent of pharmacists. There is total parity between genders at all levels of education. In fact, at the university level, the number of young women has topped that of male students. The achievements by the women of Tunisia deserve to be mentioned as an example of the progress achieved or aspired to by Arab women.

Chedlia Boukchina Tunis, Tunisia President, Tunisian Natl. Women's Union Second deputy speaker of Parliament

Proposition 227's failures

Regarding "Enrollment boom will test schools," Aug. 23: I don't agree with your discussion of Proposition 227, the initiative to end bilingual education in California, which touts the initiative's success. The main purpose of 227 was not to increase test scores, but to transition students from "structured English immersion" to mainstream classrooms in one year.

According to James Crawford and other reputable researchers who have examined Oceanside's data, only 189 out of more than 5,000 English-language learners were redesignated to mainstream classrooms in the Oceanside district this year. This amounts to a 4.1 percent transition rate, meaning that the immersion approach used in the Oceanside school district failed to assist 96 percent in achieving 227's goal. I wouldn't term this progress, and the district shouldn't become a poster-district for English-only success.

Chris Boosalis Turlock, Calif.

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