When we're able to afford a nice vacation, my wife and I usually go somewhere tropical. Stop - I know what you're thinking already. "Y'all live in Houston, how much more tropical do you need?"

Well let me rephrase that. We usually go somewhere tropical with nice beaches. And boats. And invariably I end up jumping off that boat into deep water for a swim or to snorkel.


The first time it happened she thought I was crazy, and I didn't understand her reaction. I've been swimming since forever and am quite comfortable in the water, whether it's a pool or the ocean.
She on the other hand didn't know how to swim and would not get near the water with anything less than a lifejacket on and a couple of lifeguards on standby. After a summer of swim lessons a few years back, she's much more comfortable now, but I've discovered there are a lot more people out there like her.

Especially Black folks.
I learned to swim when I was in the 1st grade, but for various reasons, too many of our kids don't learn to swim early in life. That puts a damper on water borne activities for a lifetime, but that's not the worst of it however. From the excellent Black Gives Back blog:

Not long ago, I read a study that stated nearly 60% of black children ages 6-16 can't swim. Various reasons I've seen cited are historical and cultural factors, such as the lack of swimming pools in urban communities and lower income families not being able to afford swimming lessons. In addition, studies show that Black children drown at a rate almost three times the overall rate.


That's some kind of disparity, and I'm willing to bet that almost all of those drowning deaths could be prevented by ensuring that kids know how to swim and practice proper water safety. There have already been at least two drowning deaths of
children here in Houston so far this summer. Thankfully, there are several initiatives coming on line that help to address this need, some of which are highlighted in this post and in this article.

My daughter is not the best swimmer, yet, but she will be because we are making her do it. Same goes for the nieces and nephews. Lessons can be expensive, but I think you have to weigh it against the costs of not providing them. Teach them while they're young.

It's shouldn't really even be a question.

3 comments
  1. Charles Kuffner June 30, 2008 at 10:44 PM  

    Two words: Joe Delaney.

    We gave Olivia swimming lessons when she was a baby, and she does very well in the water. We missed the boat with Audrey, but will make it up when she's a little older.

  2. Menopausal Mick July 2, 2008 at 7:31 AM  

    My dad was in the Navy for twenty years and he couldn't swim even a dog paddle. Swimming is a skill required by the Navy but he always paid someone to take that test for him. He grew up on a farm in southern Illinois and there probably weren't two swimming pools in the entire county. The only swimming holes around were those left when strip mining left an area. His mother wouldn't allow him to get near those pools because they were very dangerous.

    It always seemed strange to me that he never took the time to learn to swim even when he left his country home and began traveling the world with the Navy.

    I suspect, like you mentioned, that it breaks more along economic lines than it does racial. If one has no safe opportunity to learn to swim, it isn't a skill one can acquire in any other way.

    Mick

  3. DP July 7, 2008 at 4:00 PM  

    Kuff - I had forgotten about Joe Delaney. What a selfless act that was that cost him his life. I remember well living in Denver at that time and watching him run all over the Denver Broncos his rookie year. Makes you wonder what might have been. Get Audrey into those lessons!

    Mick - Practice makes perfect, especially as far as swimming goes. Although its still amazing your Dad never picked it up. I think if you don't have the opportunity to learn and make use of what you've learned, you'll never be any good at it.