Sixty students, from a number of public schools in Chicago, have witnessed something many of their parents have never seen - a stockholders meeting of a major corporation.
Next, officers of Beatrice Foods Company provided the students with an opportunity many shareholders would have envied. They opened themselves to half an hour of questions and answers about business and Beatrice.
''I learned a lot,'' said Lorraine Cruz of Kelly High School after the session. ''You think of a company as just putting out products, and you don't really know what goes on behind the scenes.''
The questions fielded by James L. Dutt, Beatrice chairman and chief executive officer, and three other officers indicated the young audience possessed a high degree of sophistication about what a major corporation does. The students, mostly juniors enrolled in a work-study program, asked questions ranging from why a Beatrice subsidiary would help sponsor the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles to how the corporation could deal with a communist country.
''How can you talk to a communist country and still talk about profits?'' asked Michelle Mullins of Lakeview High school, referring to a joint agreement Beatrice has with China's Guangmei Foods Company.
''The Chinese understand profits. They are not so much a communist country as they are a socialist country,'' Mr. Dutt replied.
''We are over there to make a buck. We're going to do that by showing them how to build productive plants. We are not a charitable institution.''
To another question, Dutt said the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Los Angeles, a Beatrice subsidiary, was getting involved in the Olympics because it helped the product's acceptance and sales and added to its profile and recognition.
''I think the program was very valuable for my students,'' said Leonard Cooper, a teacher at Carver High School. ''It was less facts and figures than it was getting more of an idea what business is all about.''