Friday, April 15, 2005

On What to Do with School Pools

The New York Times has an article that examines pools in the city's public schools. Apparantly, a lot of the pools are in a state of disrepair and are no longer being used:
Of the 50 swimming pools tucked inside the city's 1,200 school buildings, 10 are in unusable condition. At Martin Luther King Jr. High School in Manhattan, the pool, empty since leaks and filtration problems were discovered in 1986, has been used over the years to store old chairs and desks. The pool at Walton High School in the Bronx has been closed since the 1980's, despite a $54 million schoolwide renovation. Next to Truman's competitive pool is a smaller practice pool, which is alsoempty, except for grime, spattered paint and a few cigarette butts.
It sounds like a grim scene: decaying pools, memories, and symbols of urban decay. Certainly, this is the pathos appeal that the article frames the story around. Folks are quoted with maudlin voice, waxing on about memories past and forlornly looking at empty deep ends in the present.
"It was gorgeous," recalled Linda Roemer, a 1962 graduate whose memories are only slightly tainted by the unflattering tank suits worn during swim classes. "White tiles and that chlorine blue water. With the sun coming in through the skylights, you could see rainbow effects."
But, really, anything that is closed-up and ignored begins to look sad and invites ideas of rejuvination. This sort of natural cognitite leap doesn't necessarily affirm the appropriateness of funding pool repair.

But, there are folks who are advocating for funding these pools in order to provide kids with a chance to to get some exercise and release some of their stress.
Teachers and principals say that when school pools work, they are oases from whatever troubles may pass in the hallways and classrooms. Tension over test scores and safety concerns dissipates in the smell of chlorine, the creak of diving boards, the splash of the butterfly stroke.
But, like everything else, this repairing of pools will cost money--to the tune of millions of dollars per pool. I think repairing these pools is a frivolous goal. Millions of dollars, if sent to schools, would be much better spent on teacher training, teacher pay, and all of that sort of stuff.

Sure, kids are getting fatter and a pool might encourage exercise, but I suspect that the cure for obesity is not in finding some new--and expensive!--exercise venue so much as it is finding a way to incorporate healthful living in everyday life--slower and less eating, longer walks, and less video games, etc. However nice it would be to go swimming in a school pool, I doubt that students would get to swim everyday for the 45 minutes or so that would produce significant weight-loss. Nor do I think that people fundamentally enjoy exercising more just because they are swimming; sweating is sweating regardless of whether it's washed away with smelly chlorinated water. All these millions would do is create an image of healthy and happy education for the principles and people walking by to see what schools are up to. Getting a chance to swim in PE is probably a fine goal, et ceteris paribus but spending a lot of money so kids can dip their toes in water an hour a week is hardly going to solve anything.

No, take that money and find ways to teach folks how to eat better and incorpote realistic everyday activities in their lives Take that money and train teachers to think critically and teach those critical skills; fund inner-city speech and debate teams, fund inner-city outreach programs, invite more mentors in, provide literacy tutors. At the very least, turn those old, dingy and sad pools into classrooms so we can stop swimming down memory's lane!


Blogger Patrick said...

First of all... "maudlinly"???? I think not... :P

Secondly, this quote is interesting:

"Teachers and principals say that when school pools work, they are oases from whatever troubles may pass in the hallways and classrooms. Tension over test scores and safety concerns dissipates in the smell of chlorine, the creak of diving boards, the splash of the butterfly stroke."

I don't know about these teachers and principals, but for me, the school pool was not an "oas[is] from [] troubles".
The one time we had to swim was in 9th grade health class... coed... with 14-15 year old bodies and minds. Not a great comination to my mind. Half the time I was worried about appearing too small, and the other half of the time, while ogling the girls, worried about appearing to large... :o

4/15/2005 7:09 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

I think that's exactly right! We never had pools in my school (being just a po' boy from virginia, I counted myself lucky for having shoes with only a few holes in them!), but if we did, I can't think of anything more embarassing for a husky, pale-skinned, boy than having to take a shirt off! And the hormones!

Of course, I guess the hormones could be taken care of by having same-sex classes.

But, to my credit, "maudlinly" is a word. But, it's an adverb. So, I did change it to maudlin.

4/15/2005 7:46 PM  
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