Students rate subjects important to them

WASHINGTON (AP) — Half of the high school students in a new survey feel less than challenged at school. But that doesn’t mean they are eager to take calculus, advanced science or Shakespeare.
Instead, basic reading, writing and math topped the list of what students found “extremely important” in a survey released Monday by Public Agenda, a nonprofit research group. Ninety-four percent of students found those studies crucial. Computer skills also ranked high, at 75 percent, as did practical job skills, at 59 percent.
Good marks make them feel good, said the cross-section of 1,300 students interviewed in November. But teachers make it easy just to get by, they said.
Overall, less than half the students surveyed thought it so important to take biology, chemistry or physics; advanced math such as calculus; American history and American geography. Shakespeare was buried rather than praised at 23 percent. The bell tolled for Hemingway and other modern American authors at 18 percent.
“I think kids are trying to get by with the bare minimum, and just get through with what they have to get through and not push themselves to their full potential,” said Patrick Burland, 16, a junior from Boothwyn, Pa., on a study tour of Washington.
There’s a practical reason, too. Why risk getting a lower grade on a more difficult subject when you can keep a 4-point grade average taking something easier?
“You can maybe take algebra and get an A and then you take calculus and get a D,” said Patrick, who goes for the more challenging courses.
After all, 96 percent of the students said that doing well in school made them feel good about themselves. Close to 90 percent felt schools should help students feel good about themselves. Six out of 10 said they would do better, but would have to give up too many things they enjoy doing.