New bill introduces possibility of swimming safety unit

Photo+by+Erin+Kleekamp

Photo by Erin Kleekamp

Nicole Schroeder

While some RBHS students swim for sport, it may soon be a requirement for all students. A bill, if passed, would add a swimming unit in PE classes.
For many students, the promise of warmer weather around the corner brings thoughts of shorts, sandals and swimming pools. According to a 2008 study by the University of Memphis, however, nearly 54 percent of adolescents ages 12 to 18 cannot swim past the shallow end of the pool.
Yet if a newly-proposed house bill is passed by the Mo. House of Representatives, those statistics might change for students in the state. House Bill 1236 would allow for physical education classes to begin including swimming and water safety curriculum in their instruction for grades three through 12.
Such a proposal, Athletic Director David Egan said, seems it would be beneficial for many students, particularly in earlier grades. However, Egan believes if the bill is enacted, certain schools might face difficulties with providing such curriculum to students, for varying reasons.
“I don’t disagree with it in theory at all, because certainly water safety, learning how to swim, is probably an important skill to have. I think where the issue will come in and what will be troublesome is access to a pool,” Egan said. “I mean that’s not to say that there probably couldn’t be some type of dry land instruction that probably could be provided and implemented, but really, if you’re going to give the best possible teaching and experiences, you’d want the kids to get in the pool and learn.”
Egan isn’t the only one who believes issues could arise for schools who include the curriculum if HB 1236 is adopted. Sophomore Bettie Logan, a member of the girls swimming team, said she believes the proposed curriculum wouldn’t necessarily be helpful to students, as many would learn at a pace different from the rest of the class.
“I don’t think it would be realistic to have [the swimming curriculum] because they would need to learn how to swim at their own pace instead of feeling pressured or forced,” Logan said. “I don’t think they should be graded on how they swim but if it were to happen they should be graded on their effort.”
Though there is some opposition to the proposal, some students believe the new curriculum could be helpful for those who do not receive much education on water safety. Senior Kate Byars said, if the school is able to support such a proposal financially, the house bill could provide an interesting addition to PE classes.
“II think swimming is fun and a great way to exercise basically your whole body, so I think swimming curriculum for children is fine,” Byars said. “I don’t think it’s a necessary part of a child’s education, but if the school has a pool and the necessary funding, sure it’s a good idea.”
Even though she supports the proposal, however, Byars said she suggests changes to PE curriculum start with more universally valuable skills, like healthy eating habits.
“[If they change the PE curriculum] they might consider focusing more on teaching kids to eat healthier foods,” Byars said. “What you put into your body is just as important as exercising, and a lot of kids are pretty clueless about what vegetables even are.”
Egan agrees, and said that although the idea of creating curriculum to help with swimming and water safety would be helpful for many students, he believes the schools in Missouri should focus on bettering students’ education in general, rather than just through the addition of specific lessons.
“I just think in general there could be more of an appreciation for a lot of the elective-type courses: your physical education courses, your performing arts courses, art, music, those kinds of things. Recently the trend has been towards [needing] more emphasis on the four core classes,” Egan said. “One of the consequences of that is the amount of physical education that kids receive in the elementary level has been reduced … so I couldn’t pinpoint anything specific other than just simply to say a lot of those elective-type courses need to be valued.”
Should there be a swimming unit in PE classes?