Should Swimming Instruction Be Required for Kids?

Eric Herman Headshot

Should swimming instruction be required for all kids as part of public school curriculum? One lawmaker in Minnesota thinks so. 

Jeff Hayden — Minneapolis Democrat/deputy majority leader and the author of the bill, (SF-1825) — is asking the state to require the Commissioner of Education to "include aquatics instruction in the standards for physical education in kindergarten through grade 12.” 

The rationale for the bill: to reduce the risks of young people drowning in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. 

"Kids just do not know how to swim," Hayden recently said in a press conference held beside a waterless pool at the Phillips Community Center, a facility currently seeking funds for renovation. "They do not know how to float. They do not know how to do the basic things to save themselves. So, we are hoping that this will prompt schools to really start thinking about it. We think this should be an added curriculum, and I would be more than willing to support capital investment if communities wanted to build pools that do not have it."

The bill currently has been submitted to the State Senate’s Education Committee. 

Hayden’s bill raises an interesting question for members of the pool industry, especially those with strong libertarian beliefs. Should state and local governments require aquatics education? 

One on hand, requiring training would, in all likelihood, help stem the tide of drowning. On the other, it would not impact preschool age children, who are at the greatest risk of drowning.  

However, it could also be argued that since kids receive physical education anyway, why not add aquatics education? From the pool industry perspective, it’s reasonable to believe that such requirements would make maintaining and even building public aquatics facilities a greater priority at a time when many such facilities are facing potential shutdowns due to lack of funding needed for maintenance and repair, as well as basic operating budgets. 

The counterargument: While safety training is overall a beneficial idea, the government would be over-reaching by making it mandatory. 

What do you think? 

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