Teaching kids to swim is, naturally, good idea and there might not seem to be anything particularly Jewish about it. However, when the Talmud states what parents should teach their children, the list comprises Torah, making an honest livelihood and how to swim (Kiddushin 29a) . Later on, the Gemara states that swimming is “life”, meaning a child’s life may depend on it.
Swimming is an example of a potentially life-saving skill. In modern times, one may add CPR (resuscitation) and the Heimlich Manoeuvre to the list. In Israel, drilling in how to get to a bomb-shelter fast falls under this category as well (as we saw last week — years of education in this saved a lot of lives. The Talmud is telling us that a full education requires Torah, skills we can use to earn a living and physical education / life-saving skills.