This Slate story on the number of Americans who can’t swim was kind of surprising to me:
In a 1994 CDC study, 37 percent of American adults said they couldn’t swim 24 yards, the length of a typical gymnasium lap pool. A 2008 study conducted by researchers at the University of Memphis found that almost 54 percent of children between 12 and 18 can do no more than splash around the shallow end of a pool. The difference between the two studies is somewhat surprising, as the CDC study suggested that children tend to be better swimmers than adults.
Having grown up in a town that features a large-ish lake, and attended a (public) school where the mandatory gym classes included swim lessons, I always kind of thought that swimming was something that everyone learned at some point. I certainly wouldn’t've guessed the percentage of people who couldn’t swim at all at even a third, let alone half.
This reminded me that my undergrad alma mater included a swim test as one of the requirements for graduation (supposedly as a result of a bequest by some wealthy donor whose child had drowned, though that sort of story attaches to any little quirk at a private college). It wasn’t much of a test– I did it in the first week of my freshman year, and it consisted of swimming across the width of the pool, then treading water for something like a minute– but every year or two somebody doesn’t get a diploma because they didn’t take the swim test.
The swim test is a subset of the general subject of phys ed requirements, which Williams also had. This was also not terribly onerous– I played rugby, which took care of most of it, and I got the two additional credits I needed by taking the same PE golf class twice (I’m still a mediocre-to-terrible golfer, for what it’s worth)– but again, some students fail to graduate every year because they haven’t completed the phys ed requirements.
Which seems like a good if roundabout way to get to a reader poll: Should colleges and universities require some physical education component from their students?
As a bonus, feel free to leave a comment describing any funny/scary/annoying aspects of whatever phys ed program you may have had to go through.