Margaret Metcalf took away from her classes at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School yesterday to complain to a panel studying Montgomery County youth problems that because of large classes and tight schedules she does not even know the names of most of her classmates.
"I make more friends when I skip class than when I attend," she said, noting that her best friends today are still the ones she made "in the third grade" when classes were smaller and less structured.
Later of the hearing, Stacy Gannon, a Walt Whitman High School student, lamented the fact that many familys no longer, sit down at the dinner table together.
The difficulties youths have in communicating with their parents and building relationships with their peers was the main theme sounding through a hearing yesterday sponsored by the Community Ministry of Montgomery.
The community ministry has been holding hearings throughout the county to give parents, teenagers, county officials and other members of the problems and needs of Montgomery County youth.
The Rev. Lincoln S. Dring Jr. director of the ministry, said the testimony from the hearings will be complied in a report to the county government, which should be ready by next fall.
"The report will attempt to answer four questions: what are the problems of our youth?; what is the evidence of these problems?; what's being done now to help?; what solutions can we offer for the future?" Dring said.
Most of the students who attended yesterday's hearing in the Westmoreland Congregational Church spoke of their family and school life with frustration even disappointment.
"The bell rings and the teacher starts lecturing right away. You can't talk to each other during class, so nobody gets to know anybody," said Metcalf, who came to the hearing dressed like most of the other youths (boys and girls) - in jeans, earth shoes, and sport shirt.
Some of the youths, echoing a concern expressed by several adults at the hearings, referred to "the break-down of the family unit" as a source of many teen-age problems.
"There are so many homes where the parents are divorced or both parents work or the children are involved in a lot of after-school activities," Stacy Gannon said. As a result there is no times during the day "when everyone is home . . . and can share their experiences with each other," she complained.
Gus Hoyt, who testified on behalf of a number of other students at Walt Whitman High School, said his classmates felt too much pressure to conform - both from their parents and teachers.
Hoyt told the panel that youths resent "parents who keep trying to push their values on their kids . . . (who) like to say, 'My son knows four languages,' or 'My daughter plays six instruments."
The youths also critized public schools and portrayed their teachers as "dead logs" close to retirement who reah directly from their textbooks when they teach class.
"Nobody has taught me English," declared Steve Walter, a senior at Albert Einstein High School. He said his English teacher offered to give him an A on a paper he wrote because it was too late in the year and he didn't have time to read the paper.
Michael Rubino of Chevy Chase, a parent, complained about the lack of "formalism" in school curriculum. "The kids just aren't being challenged enough to perform," Rubino said.