Saturday, September 22, 2012

My Most Memorable Course at Duke

Glenn links to an article at Minding the Campus: Reforming our Universities that decries certain changes at Chicago that bear witness to its decline.  Among those changes is the following, according to the article by Jeremy Rozansky:

Starting next quarter, [University of Chicago under]graduates will not have to pass a swimming test and either pass a fitness test or take three PE classes to graduate.

 Among the courses I remember at Duke with the sharpest clarity were the physical education courses.  (We had to take a course per semester for at least the first year there.)  The PE department put us freshmen through a careful evaluation, sorting us into categories.  I easily qualified for the bottom category.  That meant the weight room and swimming.  Having to take the swimming course filled me with dread.

I knew how to swim, just barely.  Sometime during my junior high years I figured it out by myself, on my own at the Springs pool, after years of fighting against the swimming lessons in which my parents had enrolled me from pre-school.  I was always in the beginners courses.  I hated them.  It was the only place in my life as a child where I was not an achiever.  In everything else, pretty much the perfect little boy.  The perfect, sick (asthma) little boy, the little boy who, of my parents' two sons, was the one who survived toddlerhood.  Actually, I was pretty much the protected little boy when it came to athletic challenges.

The Duke swimming course had two hurdles for an A, accomplish the "survival swim" and qualify for the Red Cross Life-Saving designation.  I was all about A's, but this was crazy.  It did not appear that I had any choice but to take the course.  

I completely surprised myself. I survived the swim, qualified for the life-saving badge, and got the A.  It may have been the best thing that happened to me at Duke, except for meeting Carol.

Too bad for the protected young men and women entering UC.

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