Friday, July 27, 2007

back breast fly free

One of the tidbits of trivia I picked up on my recent road trip involves swimming and college graduation. A few prestigious universities require students to pass a swim test during their four years of study. I don't mean this as a slight on my fine alma mater, but I had never heard of this before. Recently more and more colleges that had the swim test are dropping it. An editorial in the student newspaper at the University of Chicago defended the practice:
Besides its implications for the University, the swim test is a crucial part of student life. It forces us to pick up an eminently practical skill on a campus where the teaching of such skills sometimes seems lacking. According to the National Center of Health Statistics, around 4,000 people die of drowning in the United States every year. To put approximately $175,000 worth of education into developing a young mind that doesn't know enough to save itself when a day at the beach suddenly goes sour is enough to make an econ major scream. The benefits far outweigh the costs of facing the irritating prospect of finishing a full course load and still needing to know how to crawl stroke in order to leave Hyde Park with a degree.
Most of the students get the test over with shortly after freshman orientation. Some procrastinate until the last possible moment, meaning their graduation literally hinges on whether or not they can swim 100 yards without stopping. A tour guide at one college repeated a story about the swim test happening at the behest of a mourning parent whose college student child drowned in a nearby river. The story turned out to be an urban legend even if the swimming requirement is very real.


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