Should swimming classes be a physical education requirement in high schools which have pools? Aisha Harris is not a fan:
The truth is, swimming in gym class is a fraught situation for many students, even with the nicest of teachers. It’s particularly unnerving for young girls, as I can personally attest—and it really should be banished from school curriculums.
Most boys complain about taking swimming in gym classes in school not because of the fact that the water is cold, or that they will smell like chlorine for the rest of the day, but because (whether they admit it or not) they don’t like to share a public view of their privates when they change into and out of their bathing suits. For girls, it’s more complicated — starting with the hair:
When my hair, which was chemically straightened at the time, got wet, and especially when it came in contact with chlorine, it was not a pretty sight. I couldn’t just throw it up in a fashionably “messy” bun and wait for it to dry. My freshman year, I had gym first period, which meant going the entire day smelling like chlorine with my hair looking rather less than fabulous.
Speaking of periods: For a teenage girl who’s fairly new to the whole “becoming a woman” thing, being forced to wear a bathing suit and swim among your peers is terrifying. The pain and discomfort of puberty is only exacerbated by the freezing pool and the unfazed boys who can’t relate.
Besides, says Harris, not many swimming techniques get taught during brief swim classes in high school. At this point in their lives, most high school students already know how to swim (or at least stay afloat on the water). And while I think parents should insist that their children learn two essential skills in life — swimming and riding a bike — a high school gym class is really not the best place for that instruction:
Let kids get proper swimming instruction on their own time, and give them something more productive and less anxiety-ridden to do during school hours. And I’m open to suggestions for other ways to make gym class an emotionally safer space for kids. Just don’t say “dodgeball.”