“The Twelve-year-old World,” New Era, Sept. 1973, 34
This year more than 60,000 Latter-day Saint young people will start junior high school and begin the bright and frenzied teenage years. The dances, posters, 45 rpm records, Aaronic Priesthood MIA, and dozens of new friends and faces are all part of the new world that swings open.
When you are twelve years old there is more to life than bubblegum and braces. There are dreams of who and what to be, what to do and what not to do. The new world of adulthood means new temptations, new experiences, and new responsibilities for young people.
In exploring what goes on in the life and mind of a twelve-year-old about to enter junior high school, the New Era asked more than a hundred young people in two Salt Lake City schools to respond to a questionnaire designed to reflect their ideas. Here are some of the things we learned about them.
Most of them burn their energy in active sports like football, basketball, kickball, and swimming. The fastest growing sports are bicycle riding and tennis, while many young people occupy their time collecting rocks, stamps, and coins, along with scuffed knees.
A day in their life would challenge even the most fit adults since an average summer day might include such activities as a hike in the mountains to look for rocks, flying a kite in the afternoon breeze, swimming lessons, a baseball game, or an evening of roller skating.
Pollution was cited by 85 percent of them as the most serious problem in the world today. They not only have a general awareness of the problem, but many classes are actively engaged in writing campaigns to industry and government leaders on the issue of environmental protection. Here are some of the solutions that were offered to combat pollution.
Have a contest to see who can pick up the most trash in the world
Drive cars less and ride bikes more
Put corks in the chimneys of the big factories that pollute
Recycle waste products
Stop making bombs and planes and spend the money to clean up the trash
Other problems that were mentioned were drugs, war, inflation, and too short of a summer vacation.
If you were to ask ten of these sixth grade boys what they want to be when they grow up, six of them would tell you they want to be professional athletes, one would want to be a doctor, another a lawyer, still another a mechanic, and the last would be a dentist, fireman, teacher, or mortician.
A similar group of these sixth grade girls would be a little bit different. Two of the ten would want to be housewives, two would be actresses or movie stars, one would be a stewardess, two would work with animals, two would be secretaries, and one would be a teacher or a nurse.
When asked what their favorite color was the young people responded with a great deal of variety, but the winner and still champion is blue, followed closely by bright red, with green and black tying for third place honors.
These twelve-year-olds are either playing hard, eating a lot, or sitting in front of the television set watching a favorite show. The favorite shows listed by boys and girls were “Kung Fu,” “U.F.O.,” and “The Rookies.” Most of them seem to enjoy detective and adventure stories, while cartoons still hold a lot of interest for the sixth graders.
Movies are also an important part of their world. The most popular movie mentioned was The Sound of Music.
Music becomes very important at this age, and most of the students owned at least five records. The two most popular singing groups are the Jackson Five and the Osmond Brothers.
Nearly 60 percent of the sixth graders interviewed said that their favorite subjects in school were recess and physical education. However, in academic subjects mathematics and reading were listed among the favorites of many students.
Most of the students thought that education was important and nearly all of them (97 percent) plan to go to college. Students also felt that school was quite influential on the way they thought and acted but felt that the family was the most important thing.
The New Era thanks the Salt Lake Board of Education and the faculty, administrators, and students of Dilworth and Jefferson grade schools in Salt Lake City who were kind enough to aid us in gathering information for this article. The survey was taken in public schools that were composed of minority groups and in classes whose values might provide an accurate reflection of general attitudes of sixth graders.