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Exercising the giving muscle

Especially during a tight budget year, educators must make hard decisions about what sorts of lessons they should spend valuable time and money imparting to their charges. Subjects like math, science and English, for example, are obviously important and are ignored at the peril of raising a generation that is unable to function as literate members of society.

While nobody debates the importance of such core subject areas, there is considerable debate about the importance of what could be considered “second-tier” programs — music, theater, physical education and the like. The arguments in favor of teaching those subjects may not be as strong as those for the core curricula, but they are nonetheless compelling.

Clearly, teaching children about the second-tier subjects helps them learn to tap into their creativity, helps raise their self esteem and helps expand their view of and understanding of the world around them.

In that last regard, especially, such programs are important, as has become abundantly clear since an earthquake leveled buildings across a wide swath of the already-poor nation of Haiti, leaving much of the population homeless and desperate for help.

In the face of such a tragedy, an appreciation for the suffering of others has encouraged Americans to open their wallets and their purses and give unselfishly. The generosity has been especially evident in Suffolk’s elementary schools, which have raised thousands of dollars for the relief effort through various events in the weeks following the earthquake. The fundraising has at once been a lesson in compassion and the evidence that lessons have been learned about charity and selflessness.

Perhaps students who have learned about musicians and artists from around the world developed a soft spot in their hearts that encouraged their generosity. Or maybe it was just a function of strong emphasis on philanthropy at home or in the church. Either way, we’re glad to see that city schools allow their students the opportunity to exercise the giving muscle in the midst of their everyday studies.