- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 9, 2001

Reform bilingual education

The Census Bureau reports that nearly one-fifth of American children speak a language other than English in the home and one-third of those children say they do not speak (let alone read or write) English very well ("Increasing bilingual trends prompt mixed responses," Aug. 6). Yet the answer to this problem, according to the National Council of La Raza, is more bilingual education?

Do we need more segregated classrooms in which students do not even begin to learn written English until the fifth grade? Where not a single student demonstrates any measurable progress in English fluency in a given year? While these are among the more extreme examples, they are indicative of chronic problems demonstrated by bilingual education programs across the nation.

A better answer for those children is to reform bilingual education, as a growing number of states, including California, Arizona, Connecticut and New York, already have done. In California, second-grade English learners improved their test scores by 9 percentile points in reading and 14 points in math after they started learning in English. As the bilingual reform movement continues to expand, it stands to bring similar important improvements to the nation's more than 4 million English learners.


DON SOIFER

Executive vice president

Lexington Institute

Arlington

Warning: government condom pushers may be hazardous to health

Commentary columnist Mona Charen writes, "Cautious and prudent people would think twice before assuming a condom provides protection for anything other than HIV and gonorrhea in men ("Condom war's latest skirmish," Aug. 6). She based her statement on the July 20 National Institutes of Health (NIH) report on the effectiveness of condoms, which was compiled from literature surveys.

Former Rep. Tom Coburn requested the NIH report because the government was still promoting the use of condoms for safe sex when it was clear condoms did not provide any protection against some sexually transmitted diseases, notably the pandemic human papilloma virus which causes cervical cancer.

The report was prepared, but was being held because it meant that, for the first time, the government would have to admit that condoms do not guarantee safe sex. It was only released when, according to The Washington Post, a Freedom of Information Act request was threatened.

The watchdog Consortium of State Physicians Resource Councils (CSPRC) said the NIH study found that condoms offer 85 percent risk reduction for HIV/AIDS ("CDC's leader urged to resign; Condom-safety truth challenged," June 25). That is like playing Russian roulette with one bullet in a six-shooter.

Previously, we have seen credible reports dating back as far as 1993 (by Dr. Susan Weller, of the University of Texas) and 1997 (by Dr. Willard Cates Jr., former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) that indicate condoms reduce the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS by only about 70 percent. That is like playing Russian roulette with two bullets in a six-shooter.

Could this be the reason why AIDS infection rates are up, as you reported in the June 1 story, "AIDS infection back at '80s level"?

Even after this information was available, the government was still saying on the national AIDS hot line that condoms are 98 percent effective in preventing AIDS.

Cautious and prudent people, as Miss Charen calls them, would also think twice before assuming that the government is being accurate or truthful about the protection condoms provide against HIV/AIDS. Cautious and prudent people would also think twice before depending on condoms as protection against AIDS.


CAROLYN NAUGHTON

Silver Spring

Evangelical, Orthodox Jewish beliefs shouldn't influence U.S. policy

I read the Aug. 5 article, "Evangelicals urge U.S. to relocate embassy, shut out PLO," with a mixture of amusement and irritation. The article states that evangelical Christians are "urging President Bush to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem because according to their interpretation of the Bible, the Holy Land belongs to the Jews." It seems clear to me that any attempt to formulate public, international policy on the grounds of religious beliefs is fundamentally flawed.

First, the idea that Israel is "the holy land" is founded upon a basic misconception. According to the Bible, the land in question is not "holy" because it belongs to the Jews, or anyone else, but because it belongs to God. The people who came together to create the first Jewish state more than 3,000 years ago were guided by an idea that clashed with the political realities they had experienced from Mesopotamia to Egypt to the Sinai to Canaan. In each place, a human king owned all of the land, which he distributed to his political backers as he saw fit. The result was a constant changing of land stewardship as kings came and went. A family that had been in favor with King A could instantly lose everything the minute King B came to power. By postulating their deity as the true owner of all, the new state could embark upon a policy of distributing land equally among all its citizens. This land was owned in stewardship by the grace of God and could not be expropriated by the crown, no matter who had political power at the moment. So a Southern Baptist or a Jewish Orthodox view of "da land" flies in the face of historical reality as we know it.

But another, more fundamental objection should be raised to the formulation of policy on the basis of the theology of a particular group of fervent believers. The Southern Baptists only recently reiterated their doctrine that all Jews need to be evangelized (we must not forget the true meaning of "evangelicals") so they can become Christians. Will the Bush administration enact a policy to honor this doctrine? Will it create a policy underpinning the idea of the inferior status of women in evangelicalism and Jewish orthodoxy? What about a policy backing their virulent opposition to the laws of the land that permit a woman and her medical and spiritual advisers to determine the use to which her own body will be put? What policy will Mr. Bush recommend to accommodate the evangelical conviction that a third temple must be rebuilt so the messiah can return? Will he back the idea of destroying a major Muslim holy site to placate those who think in this way?

PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat may not be a perfect partner with whom to seek peace, but refusing to deal with him means giving up on the idea of peace. Let the Bush administration learn from history. The two partners in the coalition between Southern Baptists and Orthodox Jews have one thing in common: Neither cares about what happens to the rest of the world as long as their views are adopted. Southern Baptists don't care about Jews except as potential converts. Orthodox Jews won't even serve in the Israeli army, and many don't work at all. Instead, they live on the dole of the government they seek continually to topple, holding their skirts around them sanctimoniously, asserting that they are the "true Jews."

Public policy should ignore extremists of all stripes Christian, Muslim or Jewish. The relationship between Israel and the United States should be grounded on foundations that can stand the test of time. Israel is a democracy. Israel was created by an act of international law. Israel is the target of insane attacks from suicide fundamentalists who believe they will be transported instantly to paradise and given 70 virgins because they died for Allah. There are many reasons that the United States should not depend on such people. Mr. Bush's political need to respond to his Christian-right supporters should not be one of them.


CHARLES DAVID ISBELL

Professor of Hebrew and Judaic studies

Louisiana State University

Baton Rouge


Charles David Isbell is author of six books and more than 100 articles on the Bible, Hebrew language and Judaism.

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