18 August 2009

Philadelphia Has 73 Public Pools

Or at least they did last year...
...Having followed the coverage in the Philadelphia media, I have lingering questions about how much of that incident was race and how much was social class. Urban working-class and suburban middle-class children often have quite different styles of play -- as I know from present observation as well as from my Syracuse youth, when I regularly biked to the public pool in Thornden Park. Kids of all races from downtown Syracuse neighborhoods were much rougher and tougher, and for self-preservation you had to stay out of their way! Otherwise, you'd get knocked to the concrete or dunked when they heedlessly jumped off the diving board onto our heads in the crowded pool.

In general, middle-class children today are more closely supervised at pools because the family can afford to have a non-working parent at home -- a luxury that working-class kids rarely have. What happened at the Valley Swim Club, whose safety infrastructure was evidently also overwhelmed by too many visiting kids who were non-swimmers, may have been a clash of classes rather than races. Were the mothers who pulled their kids out of the pool that day really reacting to skin color or what they, accurately or not, perceived to be an overcrowded, dangerous disorder? The incontrovertible offense in all this, which went unmentioned in the national media, was the closure for budgetary reasons by the city of Philadelphia this summer of 27 of its 73 public pools. There is no excuse for that kind of draconian curtailment of basic recreational facilities for working-class families, sweltering in the urban summer heat.

-Camile Paglia speculates about the Philadelphia swim case

I think that there is a big difference between local pools that kids can walk to unsupervised, and those that require a parent to drive the kids to the pool. If the pool requires driving, it almost guarantees that the kids will be better supervised. But that is not always the case. Sunday, we spent the day at Dunham Pool, which is the last CRC pool open this year. I noticed they had signs up saying something like " lifeguards are not babysitters...curb your kids!"

Dunham was packed on its last day. I estimate 3-400 swimmers Sunday.

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