Should swim be optional?
Imagine you’re back in seventh grade. You wake up to your ringing alarm and hurry out the door to school. You trudge through the hallways. Sit through your classes. Pretend you’ve done your homework. Then you leave campus, walk around the cul-de-sac, and sit on the cold bleachers outside the Yosemite pool. For many of us, this is a memory that we all have⎼ middle school swim class. Although the tradition does not carry over to high school, all middle school students are required to have one semester of swim each year. Likely, you were no exception. You may have looked upon those memories fondly, or maybe even the opposite. For although swim is an ERHS tradition, it’s not always a treasured one. After conducting various interviews, I have compiled first-hand opinions on whether swim classes should be mandatory or not.
Although everyone had differing opinions, a few topics were repeatedly brought up. “It just takes so much time,” says eighth grader Bella Castillo, as well as practically everyone I interviewed. “It takes too much effort to get in my swimsuit, swim for, like, twenty minutes, and then change back into my clothes. And my hair always stays damp and makes my shirt wet for the rest of the day.” When presented with the fact that Mr. Hernandez has shower caps for students to wear, Bella replies, “I would probably just look ridiculous, and my hair would most likely end up wet anyway.” Similarly, other students share her annoyance with wet hair. “My bangs always get flippy after I swim,” says Lilah Hayes. Not only does the water mess up appearances, but it can also damage your hair as well. Chlorine can damage your hair drastically; the chemical causes hair to become weaker, thinner, and can even cause discoloration. If you’re swimming every other day, “swimmer's hair” is a condition that you can feasibly develop. Relatedly, skin is also something that can dry out when submerged in chlorine. Especially in the winter, skin can become itchy, red, and irritated if you spend too much time in the water. Evidently, chlorine has many negative effects on you, and if you’re swimming multiple times a week, those effects may become prominent.
Continuing on the subject of appearance, many students take time in the morning to put on makeup, but once you get in the pool, none of that matters and it all gets washed away. Speaking as someone who wears minimal makeup, this doesn’t affect me personally, but many of my classmates are bothered by the issue. “It’s annoying to have to put on makeup after swim. There’s only a tiny mirror, and lots of people are trying to use it at once, so you can barely even see yourself in it,” Avni Koppula relates. “It’s just inconvenient to have to do all of that.” Those two reasons were heavily stressed by my classmates, but smaller reasons were brought up as well. In an issue mentioned by Charlie Ritter, it’s also annoying to carry around your swim stuff all day. Our backpacks are already stuffed, and having to include a full-size towel does not help. Seventh grader Nora Soderstrom presents the difficulties of taking the swim test every day; something that takes much more stamina than doggy paddling in the deep end. And come on, let’s be honest, no one likes diving into a frigid pool on cloudy days. On certain occasions, it’s simply too cold for anyone to enjoy a dip in the pool, a nuisance almost everyone expresses.
However, putting the beginning and end of the period aside, many students find swimming enjoyable. Eighth-grader Kailee Ingbur mentions, “Free swim is super fun because I like diving off the diving board. I also like when I can just hang out with my friends and learn techniques and stuff that I couldn’t do before.” Last summer, the once-broken diving board was repaired, allowing swimmers to do flips into the deep end; The lifeguards are always eager to help teach you tricks, and Mr. Hernandez supplies tennis balls for you to play. For many, free swimming is extremely enjoyable. “It’s fun to swim when all of my friends are swimming,” agrees Isabella Ayala. “I also think it’s important for everyone to learn how to swim. I mean, we live in California; it’s an important skill to have.”
Obviously, the swim teacher, Mr. Hernandez is a strong advocate of the advantages of swimming. “Everyone should have the opportunity to learn how to swim,” he says. “And more importantly, if someone’s drowning, you’ll be able to save a life. 99% of schools don’t offer a class like this, and that’s what makes it so special. It’s almost like a break in the day, where students can just relax for a period. That’s what makes swim such a great opportunity that everyone should take advantage of.” Looking around the pool, I could see what he meant. Students were splashing in the water, talking with their friends, and playing volleyball in the shallow end. All having fun in the middle of an otherwise boring day.
Clearly, they’re pros and cons to both arguments. But should swimming be required for all middle schoolers? This is where the answer becomes unanimous. Every person I interviewed replied, “no, swim should not be mandatory.” Although the exact reason differs, Kailee phrases it best. “There’s a lot of people that are uncomfortable being exposed like that. There are a lot of personal things that people might not want to say openly, with mental problems like anxiety and body insecurities, or just being around a bunch of people, and those people shouldn’t be forced to do something they’re uncomfortable with.” Undoubtedly, dealing with body image is hard enough to do without appearing in a swimsuit in front of your whole class. No one should ever be put in an uncomfortable situation. However, for many people, that’s what swim does. Although many students love this class and agree that the tradition should be continued, it’s clear that the middle schoolers strongly believe it should not be mandatory.