Shane Maxfield doesn't want his friends to know he likes school for academic reasons.
"I hope my friends don't hear me say this, but I like to do the work and everything. I want to get an education. Some of the work is a real challenge for me," the Provo High School senior said.But if it's any comfort to Maxfield's buddies, his first thought was of them when asked what he likes about school.
"I like it because all my friends are here," he said.
For teenagers, it all happens in high school.
It's the place where best friendships are formed. And broken daily. It's where boys discover combs and deodorant and cologne. They'll do anything to get an edge on the guys trying to move in on the girls who don't even know they exist.
It's the place where girls, who suddenly want to be called women, pretend not to know those goofy guys are alive. They like watching the guys make fools of themselves trying to make a good impression. Every so often they'll say "Hi" to each other in the crowded hallways.
Sometime before graduation, those young men and women get together for dances, dates, parties. Oh, and somewhere along the way about 95 percent of them will pick up diplomas.
School for most Utah Valley students seems to revolve around social life, sports or other extracurricular activities, and education - in that order.
Students pay a lot more attention to who's going out with whom than to a history lesson on the reconstruction period following Abraham Lincoln's assassination.
"I see them willing to put less and less in," said DeLynn Decker, a teacher at Provo High.
Students say the same things about teachers.
"Some of the teachers don't explain the subjects very well. They don't care if you get good grades. They just want to get you out of there," said Mary Morley, a sophomore at Spanish Fork High School.
Students from American Fork to Spanish Fork said, without being prompted, that athletic coaches made the worst teachers. Students said coaches seem to cater to their players and don't appear enthusiastic about the subjects they teach.
Chris Williams, a senior at Provo High, said school isn't challenging. "You have to learn things on your own to be competitive," he said. "Tests are designed for the old system of seat time."
Even so, students and teachers agree that learning is a mutual responsibility.
"If you have a good teacher, any class can be fun," said Janette Smith, a senior at Provo High. But, "the education you get depends on how much you're willing to put in. You're going to get a mediocre education if you don't put in a lot."
Although students aren't always keen on doing homework or taking difficult courses, they recognize the need for education.
"It's important because without it you can't do anything in life," said Jeff Bledsoe, a Provo High sophomore.
Students also realize that teachers have to cope with crowded classrooms and education suffers from a lack of funding. Some classes don't have enough textbooks, while others lack the latest computer technology. Students said teachers should be better paid and the Legislature should allocate more money for schools. One group of students said the ideal teacher-to-student ratio is 1 to 15.
Teenagers aren't sure whether high school prepares them for higher education. Some say it does, others say it doesn't.
"I don't know a lot of the basic things you have to learn," said Allyson Shepherd, a senior at Spanish Fork High. She also doesn't know if she wants to to go to college.
"I've always thought I would, and you get into your senior year and you don't know what to do," she said.
Students at one school said counselors discourage 12th-graders from going to college. They said they're advised to obtain a vocational education to develop a marketable skill.
According to an informal Deseret News survey of middle, junior high and high school students, 57.9 percent of the girls and 61.2 percent of the boys plan to seek higher education. The 1990 Census showed that those who earned a degree beyond high school made an average of $2,231 per month, compared to $1,280 for those who attended college but didn't graduate. People with only high school diplomas make an average of $1,077 a month.
College-bound students in the Alpine and Provo school districts who took the American College Test last year indicated in a survey that the areas in which they needed more training included study and math skills and educational-occupational planning. Nebo School District doesn't compile such statistics.
High school students who take the ACT also are asked to rate their schools and express satisfaction or dissatisfaction in 11 key areas.
Alpine's five high schools received an overall rating of 2.6, a B- letter grade, on a scale of 0 to 4. Students were most satisfied with the honors program, the variety of courses and classroom instruction. They were most dissatisfied with grading practices and school rules and regulations.
In Provo district, 66 percent of the students rated their high schools good to excellent, while 17 percent said they were below average to very inadequate. Students who scored better on the test gave schools higher marks than those whose ACT scores were lower. Like Alpine students, Provo students were most satisfied with honors courses, variety and instruction, and least satisfied with grading and school rules.
"This is like baby-sitting," Provo High senior Christy Hafen said of school. "You come to class and you're baby sat all day long."
Wednesday: Teens just want to have fun: recreation and social activities.
Thursday: Teens at work.
Friday: Teen problems.
CHART: What teens study
Percentage of 1992 high school seniors in Utah County's three school districts who took at least three years of the subjects listed.
Subjects Alpine Nebo Provo
English/literature 99 96.1 97.8
Foreign language 42 18.3 20.1
Social studies 95 89.8 55.6
Math 95 81.7 58.4
Science 88 66.9 34.2
Art 35 20.5 10.9
Music 30 25.4 16.7
Physical education 76 51.7 17.5
Source: Alpine, Nebo and Provo school districts' annual reports.