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Mom Liked Him Best
Thanks for the most informative article, "Playing Favorites" by Jeffrey Kluger [Nov. 14]. As the second of four boys, I always knew that the first- and last-born were favorites, although our parents always denied it. I and the third son left home at 16 and 17, respectively, while the favorites stayed home until well after finishing school. We two were far better prepared to deal with the real world than the favorites were. Although we had less education when leaving home, we were much more successful in our careers. How ironic that it appears, at least in our case, that our parents unintentionally did us a favor by choosing the others to favor.
Lewis R. Vaughn,
Greer, S.C., U.S.

Your cover feature on parental favorites could have included a discussion on the possibility of upward mobility in sibling "rankings." The youngest of three, I was probably second favorite with my mother but dead last with Dad. However, there seems to be a meritocracy even within families that allows lower-ranked children to work their way up the ladder; successes in life have moved me up to first with Mom and second with Dad. To all the nonfavored children out there: Don't give up!
Mark Fielden,
Osaka, Japan

I am 14 years old and a self-confessed daddy's girl. Yet, I don't think my dad loves me any more than my 11-year-old brother; I just think my dad sees more aspects of himself in me, and because of that is more drawn to me and finds me easier to understand. I don't think I am my father's favorite — that's not the right word to use — though my brother would beg to differ.
Natalie Friesem,
Stockton-On-Tees, England

I empathize with Kluger. But extrapolating his experiences to all families is conjecture, not science. I am one of three siblings as well as a parent. I cannot remember one instance of favoritism shown by my parents to any of their children. Likewise, my wife and I love both of our children equally. Really, we do. For a black eagle, only one skill is necessary to survive — the ability to hunt and kill — so parents have every reason to favor their more robust offspring. But humans can survive and thrive using any number of skills, including reasoning, social skills and creativity, so your comparison is flawed. It's entertaining to speculate about favoritism, but please do not call it science.
Thomas Hauck,
Gloucester, Mass., U.S.

Education Lessons
Fareed Zakaria fails to mention a key element of education reform: parental involvement ["Why Can't the U.S. Learn?" Nov. 14]. Behavior, attendance and attitude are all contingent upon parents.
David Kelley,
Fort Smith, Ark., U.S.

I fully agree that teachers should be good and students should work hard. But do we really need so many young people with college degrees? In this country, we pride ourselves on the Swiss dual-education system. Young people who are not academic-minded and prefer practical work serve an apprenticeship and go to vocational schools at the same time. In school they are taught the theory behind the practical work they have to do in their respective workplace. This way, industry can rely on skilled workers and youth unemployment can be reduced.
Albert Braun,
Heerbrugg, Switzerland

Desperate Measures in Tibet
Re "Burning Desire for Freedom" [Nov. 14]: The monks and nuns who self-immolate are undoubtedly fully aware of the value that Buddhism places on life. If there were any other way for them to proclaim their views, they would choose it. Instead, they sacrifice valuable human life in order to make their point as loud and clear as possible. I hope someone is listening.
Brendan Kelly,
Dublin

I honor those Tibetans who have died as the result of more than six decades of Chinese occupation. No amount of repression, however violent and brutal, can silence the voice of democracy and freedom.
Song Xiaowen,
Pingzhen City, Taiwan