Historically, many US colleges and universities mandated swimming tests for graduation. While many of those colleges have dropped this traditional requirement, a handful of them are steadfast in maintaining this requirement. It is debatable whether a swimming test (yes, test) should be or should not be a graduation requirement, and cases can be made for either one. Nevertheless, swimming should be viewed as a life skill, like walking, running, reading or the ability to do simple arithmetic.
Why wait till one goes to college? An earlier encouragement (and enforcement to some extent) to swim at the elementary school level can help change the drowning statistics and promote healthy lifestyle among youngsters.
In June of 2015, the Minneapolis State Legislation passed a bill to look into and develop swimming resources to provide mandatory swimming lessons for all state public schools. The report from the state education commissioner is due in February 2016. I am eagerly waiting for a report and I hope to give you the good news. If Minneapolis is able to implement the bill, it will be the first state and become a trailblazer for other states to follow. It’s only apt that ‘Land of 10,000 Lakes’ state is taking the lead.
There have been some attempts by public school districts in the country to mandate swimming lessons as part of the school curriculum. One such example is the Wenchatee School Board (in Washington State); this group adopted a program two years ago that mandates swim assessment test for every incoming high school freshman. I am surprised that many similar efforts are not underway. At this point of time, it appears that the states have abdicated the responsibility to the parents. This certainly poses a problem as many parents don’t have access to proper swimming facilities, and many of those who have, cannot afford swim lessons for their kids.
Swim lessons in the public schools as part of their curriculum will encourage and motivate families to consider swimming seriously, particularly, the ones who cannot afford it otherwise.
I do understand that today most of the public school systems have budget constraints and are expected to do more with less. Building and sustaining swimming facilities by the public schools can be expensive, but that alone should not prevent us from being creative.
Explore the possibility of establishing public-private ventures to bring swim lessons to the public schools.
I urge my readers to ask their local legislators and school administrators to creatively form public-private partnership with business leaders from private sectors, and share the responsibility. After all, shouldn’t teaching life skills to the next generation be one of our top priorities?
– Meghna Sil