Gail H. Ito

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Jeria, Jorge

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education


Swimming--Training--United States; Drowning--United States--Prevention; African Americans--Education


This investigation uses case study research to identify the barriers in water safety education for African Americans. The study focuses on an urban environment and examines the products of adult education certification programs for water safety education. The products include the agencies or physical and social setting offering learn-to-swim programs, the swim lessons, and the curriculum. These products are examined through the lived experiences of African Americans including. The purpose of the study is to gain a better understanding of why the drowning rate for African Americans is twice the rate of European Americans in the United States. Using the lens of critical theory and the hidden curriculum, water safety education is examined in a similar manner as education in the United States. The social structures, the physical setting including the buildings, the procedures and the way knowledge is distributed were found to have embedded covert and overt messages that result in African Americans feeling unwelcome at aquatic venues. Many of the overt displays of racism and discrimination are no longer practiced in aquatic venues today; however, they continue to play a role in the unwelcoming atmosphere. Participants in this study repeatedly stated their attitudes towards swimming and water activities were passed down from one generation to the next. It was 50 years ago, or two generations from the children of today, in which African Americans were beaten, chased out of, or humiliated if they entered a pool or beach in which European Americans were swimming. The reasons why African Americans do not learn to swim and why they drown at twice the rate as European Americans are complex. Different groups of people may have very different experiences, resulting in a different racialized view of water activities and different social customs. These customs must be recognized and incorporated into teaching strategies. In addition, issues of access related to historic treatment of minorities and long-term segregation in the United States have resulted in reducing exposure and knowledge that keep people safe in water activities.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [173]-183).


xvi, 196 pages




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