In the UK we have our own ideas when it comes to right and wrong and public safety. Separated by a wide expanse of water from our American cousins and a much narrower channel from our European partners, our Island mentality is costing lives. In America and Europe outdoor swimming is the expected norm. Summer is a happy time of playful water fun but American and European attitudes seem to have no place here.
Britain once led the world into a new association with water. Mass education of school children in the art of swimming reduced drownings and increased the quality of people’s lives. But today in an effort to be politically correct and not to offend anyone, serious flaws in our education system are accepted and sustained.
Watch this short 1973 public information film and análise your feelings about the message it contains:
The message in this video may seem unacceptable today. Now everyone’s a winner, theirs no wrong answer and no one is to be excluded. But these ideals do not work in an aquatic setting; they don’t work in the real world. Education is the key element of water safety and survival.
People don’t live in ignorance, they die in ignorance.
It may not be PC to mention that a drowning victim couldn’t swim or that his lack of education or ability in swimming outdoors cost him his life (yes, it is usually males that drown) but it’s the truth.
I look back on my childhood with fond memory’s, watching Tarzan swim and fight off crocodiles and Tom Sawyer and his friends rope swinging into the Mississippi. I read about Swallows and Amazons where unsupervised bathing was part of a wonderful summer. And I remember fathers words: “Better drowned than duffers, if not duffers won’t drown.” It might not be PC to say that the nations children are “duffers” but if they weren’t aquatic “duffers” they wouldn’t drown!
In a country that recommends higher education to even the least able, we are sadly lacking when it comes to our understanding of a child’s fascination with water.
Despite warnings to keep out and stay away, children instinctively know that plunging into cool refreshing water on a hot sultry day is going to be just delightful. Our European partners and our American cousins recognize this fact and until we do the same needless drownings will sadly be a constant feature of our increasingly hot summers.
The good news is that something can be done! Swimming can be once more celebrated rather than marginalized. As an outdoor swimmer I’m fed up with being Hung Out to Dry. I want to go in swimming; to protect youngsters through education, and see news reports expose the truth, the tragedy of drowning is not that someone went into a river at a beautiful location but rather that a lack of understanding on the part of the non swimmer cost him his life.
An ancient Romans proverbs stated: “An ignorant man neither knows how to read nor to swim.”
“Ignorant” men and boys will continue to drown until they are educated out of ignorance.