State, county and city boards of education may need to consider allocating funding for including swimming in the physical education classes in schools.

Those of us who frequently watch television shows such as Rescue 911CopsReal Stories Of The Highway PatrolAlaska State Troopers and North Woods Law have seen several episodes in which people need to be rescued in relatively shallow water, often during severe floods. The tragic incidents that we’re seeing on some of these law enforcement documentary television shows in which people nearly drown in shallow water, as well as a number of tragic incidents in which law enforcement officers aren’t able to successfully rescue people from drowning in shallow water represent only a small fraction of such incidents throughout the U.S. each year. Sadly, many of these injuries and deaths could have probably been avoided if people had learned how to swim.

The numbers of reported drownings in the U.S. vary between years, and it is clear that lack of ability to swim is one of the leading contributing factors.  If teaching basic swimming and treading water skills were required as part of the physical education curriculum in all of the public schools in each state, I suspect that several years from now, we’d see a significant reduction in the numbers of incidents in which people are seriously injured or drown in shallow water.

Many credible climatologists throughout the world believe that flooding will continue to become more severe and more frequent throughout the course of the 2020s and into the 2030s.  It is very obvious that tornadoes, hurricanes and floods are becoming more severe throughout the U.Sas well as in the rest of the world. Even if scientists, governments and industries throughout the entire world were somehow able to solve all of the problems which are associated with climate change in the 2020s, it is still not known if the effects of global warming are potentially reversible. Therefore, we can expect to continue to see more severe flooding as well as more frequent flooding in the 2020s and the 2030s.  In some areas, more dams are being constructed, though this will not solve all of the problems associated with severe flooding.

Isn’t This Expensive?  Would School Districts Be Able To Afford This?

The school curriculums throughout the U.S. are largely established by the state school boards, and counties and cities have their own school boards which establish further requirements.  The school boards in each state as well as Washington, D.C. and our colonies would have to create new requirements which would require that swimming be included within the physical education curriculums, beginning in junior high schools.  There is no simple means of implementing this.  The state school boards could require that all new schools that will be built in future years would be required to have standard size swimming pools constructed in them. Older schools could be retrofitted, although there is not room to construct pools in some buildings.  For schools that are located in close proximity to public pools or gyms, the schools could have students walk to the pools or be bused to pools during PE classes. For schools that are not located near to public pools, the school boards could propose working with the city governments to construct new pools.

Yes, this would all be very expensive, the costs of constructing and maintaining swimming pool are very high.  However, think of the numbers of injuries and deaths due to drowning that this could potentially save in future years.  What is the monetary value of the cost of a single human life? Rather than asking if we can afford to build more pools, we really should be asking if we as a society can afford not to build more pools in junior high schools and high schools throughout the U.S.  You cannot assign a monetary value to human lives, the lives that could be saved in the future if more people learn to swim.  

The Federal government does not directly influence school curriculums throughout the U.S., but the Federal government does recommend some basic exercise programs for all people of all ages throughout the U.S. The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition (PCFSN) was originally established in 1956.  This agency’s original name had been the President’s Council On Physical Fitness And Sports, and in 2010, the Obama administration changed the name of this committee to the PCFSN.  The purpose of the PCFSN is to encourage all Americans of all ages to exercise more, and the PCFSN works with boards of education, with schools as well as with youth groups to promote various forms of exercise.  However, this committee has never made the need to learn to some minimal knowledge of swimming a priority. 

The President’s Challenge has recently been discontinued, but The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition (PCFSN)does still exist.  I mention the PCFSN because while this council does emphasize physical exercise, The PCFSN does not emphasize the need to learn to swim, and the PCFSN may not opt to make emphasizing learning to swim a priority anytime within the next few years.

State, county and city boards of education may need to consider allocating funding for including swimming in the physical education classes in schools

 As of 2018, there are no states in the U.S. in which the state school boards require that schools have pools, and there are no states which require that junior high school and high school students are required to learn basic swimming and treading water skills as part of the physical education curriculum.  A number of junior high schools and high schools have had pools installed in them for many years now, but that’s always been optional, not mandatory.  There is no database that I could search which lists the numbers of schools which have pools in them, there is no database which lists if any countries in other parts of the world require that junior high school students or high school students be taught how to swim as part of the PE curriculums in other countries, I won’t be able to find numbers which would show a correlation between cities which have pools in the schools and comparably lower percentage of incidents of injuries or deaths due drowning or near-drowning in shallow water each year.  This is a proposal based on nothing more than mere common sense.

Scott Benowitz

Scott Benowitz is a staff writer for Afterimage Review. He holds an MSc in Comparative Politics from The London School of Economics & Political Science and a B.A. in International Studies from Reed...