Swimming: overrated

Like you, I suspect, when I was at school, they used to send me and my classmates to swimming lessons. I never did get the hang of swimming. It seems to me that we left the water 380 million years ago for very good reasons, and I can see no reason on Earth for wanting to go back.

When you think about it, isn't swimming a pretty odd thing to learn at school? I mean, what are the odds of my ever needing to be able to swim? True, I suppose I might fall into a river. But rivers are usually pretty shallow near the edge, so, in all likelihood, I'd simply be able to stand up and climb out again. Little risk of drowning there. Unless I fell right into the middle of a deep river. Off a bridge, say. But what are the odds of that? Or I suppose a ship I was on could go down at sea. But exactly how much difference would being a strong swimmer make if the ship sank more that a couple of miles from the shore? And, besides, I'd almost certainly have time to don a lifejacket and get into a lifeboat.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not having a go at swimming per se. It just seems to me that there are far more useful things we could be teaching kids at school. Things which might actually come in handy in their daily lives. For instance:

  • How to avoid falling into water: Learn that, and your inability to swim ceases to be a problem. Not that it was much of a problem in the first place, you understand (see above).
  • How to fight off a mugger: Sadly, statistics show that you are far more likely to be mugged than to drown. Actually, sadly isn't really the right word there: I would far rather be mugged than drown. Not that I would like either to happen. But you catch my drift. You are statistically far more likely to have an opportunity to make use of any mugger-fighting skills you might have picked up at school than you are to need to make use of your swimming skills.
  • How to carve meat: This is a skill I could very easily put to good use several times a week, but can I do it? I can sharpen a carving knife well enough, but, whenever I try to carve meat with it, I end up hacking it to pieces. I just don't get it.
  • How to tie knots: I can do a bowline and a half-Windstor, and that's about it. Be honest now, don't you feel really jealous when Ray Mears always knows exactly which knots to tie on which occasions? Smarmy get!
  • How to skin a cat: There is more than one way to do this, apparently, but nobody ever took the trouble to show me any of them. I'd love to learn. I suspect that, as with rabbits, it's easiest to cut their feet off first. That would be fun.
  • How to type without looking at your fingers: I'm self-taight, but nor particularly food at ot.
  • How to spot a terrorist: They're all over the place, apparently. Don't you think it would be bloody useful to be able to spot them? Well, I do!

So basically, swimming lessons: in the grand scheme of things, a total waste of time.

Just like French.


8 thoughts on “Swimming: overrated

  1. At the risk of sounding too philosophical (god forbid), what I wish I'd learnt at school is 'what I know now'. But maybe I'm confusing experience with confidence!

  2. True, I suppose I might fall into a river. But rivers are usually pretty shallow near the edge, so, in all likelihood, I'd simply be able to stand up and climb out again. Little risk of drowning there. Unless I fell right into the middle of a deep river. Off a bridge, say. But what are the odds of that?

    Writing as a former search & recovery (of bodies) diver on a technical rescue team, I'll suggest that you'd be surprised at how many people don't know that if you go wading off the little beach that typically forms on the inside of a sharp bend in a stream or river there is generally a steep drop-off not far from shore. Non-swimmers wade out a bit, knee-deep or so, go off the edge of the drop-off in one incautious step, panic, and drown. My very first body recovery, more than 20 years ago, was of a 15 year-old male non-swimmer who drowned in such a situation in plain sight of his (all non-swimming) family. They'd been canoeing down the river and had stopped on a little beach on the inside of a bend for a picnic. He was curled in a fetal position on the bottom in 8 feet of water when I found him more than an hour later.

  3. We covered the bit about steep drops at river bends in my geography lessons at school - about the only useful thing I did learn in geography.

  4. In my opinion, I personally think that swimming lesson is a good way to teach my kids to enjoy being in the water. It can also help teach me as a parent about how to be safe around the water.

  5. With the exception of Nite Owl (that's the spirit), these have to be the most serious comments ever submitted.I myself have still yet to find "Marine Boy" gum on E-bay, although I already have the propeller boots and Lycra bodysuit, it's a good job I attained my bronze brick rescuing badge at Balliol Baths.Rolf Harris had it right, he knew what it was!

  6. Finally SOMEONE else who remembers Marine Boy! I swear everyone else thinks I'm making him up. I can still hum the theme tune, if you don't believe me. Am I imagining things, or was it called Oxy-gum? And what about his cool underwater boomerang thing?

  7. Aaaaaarrrgh. My childhood memories have been smashed to smithereens. Marine Boy; was a GIRL!!!!!!

    http://sharetv.org/shows/marine_boy

    Richard, you are correct his/her/it's gum was called oxygum.

    What are the odds of this!!!!? The five charcter spam code is SPLASHER

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