I was fortunate to grow up in a swimming family; both my grandmother and mother were swim coaches, and I was in the pool before I had hair. Being in and around water has always felt natural, and so I’m consistently taken aback when a friend or peer mentions not being able to swim.
But, learning to breaststroke or tread water is a gray area; it’s very important – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that three children drown in the US every day – but who’s responsible for making sure it happens? At one time, passing a swim test was commonly mandatory for high school graduation. Now, even standard physical education classes are being cut – let alone those that require a pool. Of course, swimming lessons are a popular summer pastime at many swim clubs and YMCAs, but those cost money that many families simply don’t have.
One of the many stark realizations that Hurricane Sandy brought to light is that a large number of people living near New York City’s beaches don’t know how to swim; five of the eight hurricane-related deaths in the Far Rockaways were drownings. While drowning is possible even for the best swimmers, the sight of water taking over his neighborhood was motivation for at least one person to take action. Fortunately, he had options. The New York Times tells the story of 15-year-old Kenrick Sultan, a Rockaway resident who, after the hurricane, took advantage of one of the city’s several non-profit organizations that offer free or discounted lessons.
These resources are not widely available, though. What are your thoughts on the issue? Should swimming be part of schools’ curriculums? Should cities be encouraged to make lessons publicly available? Is learning to swim simply a privilege for those with the means to make it happen? Let us know what you think below.