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`Reading, writing, and arithmetic'

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You would never know from Merle Rubin's review of my book ``The Pied Piper'' (April 29) that it is a sympathetic portrait of a complicated person who happened to be affiliated with the CIA [``Biography of '60s activist leaves real questions unanswered'']. Rubin also omits the extensive documentation of Lowenstein's activities. This is not guilt by association because I never suggest there is anything to be guilty of. Working for the CIA is not a criminal offense. My evidence is detailed, which an objective reader would find credible. Publishers Weekly called ``The Pied Piper'' ``brilliant and impartial.'' If Merle Rubin had been either of these, the review would have been very different. What I criticize is not Lowenstein's opposition to Communism. Rubin incorrectly suggests that I am assaulting him from the left for advocating working within the system. I served on the staff of Republican assemblyman Perry Duryea, the Republican candidate for governor of New York in 1978 and former speaker of the New York State Assembly. The suggestion that I am a Communist sympathizer is an outrage. My criticism of Lowenstein is for his intolerance of any politics to his left and his preoccupation with the threat of Communism when there was none, as in Mississippi, where he worked to get rid of the Lawyers Guild and fought with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). A detailed and sympathetic analysis of Lowenstein's congressional career is a vital part of my book. Richard Cummings Bridgehampton, N.Y.

Apropos Jonathan Kozol [``Illiteracy in America: a growing threat to democracy, author says'' April 29], I agree it is a serious problem and one that should be eradicated for the good of the country, as well as for the individuals involved. But to say that without money nothing can be done is to miss the basic problem. As one who directed a local Laubach Literacy Program with practically no success, I know whereof I speak. A large group of volunteer teachers were available, but at no time was I able to find enough pupils. Illiterates are skilled at concealment.

I look forward to the time when a means can be found to persuade illiterates that they can learn. But how do you tell them about the chance to learn? They can't read the notices posted in the public library. Few can bring themselves to reveal their inability.


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