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Bonnie Mazur: Teaching about life is a learning experience

I’m a retired professional. I teach Sunday school to teenagers at my church. I’m engaged in the classic struggle of presenting the virtues of Christianity to a social group caught up in “worldview” morality. Some discussions are funny, some are not. My role as teacher is also to mediate many parent/teenager misunderstandings. With one hand on my Bible (God’s grace and wisdom) and one hand on the reality that our society is dysfunctional, I do my best.

Several students complained that they were denied the “clean fun” of attending a first-run movie theater. Parents said, “It costs too much” and students responded, “It’s not fair.”

I was pleasantly prepared, having recently used a gift ticket to go to a first-run movie theater myself. Imagine my sticker shock when I saw that a movie ticket costs $10.50! Yes, there are discounts for senior citizens, but that doesn’t apply to my students.

A medium drink and popcorn combo cost $13.50. I only had $10 spending money, so I bought a $7 bag of popcorn. I took the empty bag home and refilled it to determine how much I really paid for movie popcorn. I wrote down the figures and had my students do the math. I paid $2.60 per ounce. For almost the cost of one gallon of gasoline you can purchase one ounce of movie popcorn.

We compared it to the cost of a steak listed in a grocery store ad. After some intense calculations we estimated one pound of movie popcorn costs about $41. A pound of sirloin steak costs $11.50. We all had an “aha” moment.

One student wisely said maybe he should ask to go to Longhorn Steakhouse and not the movies in the future. During our end-of-class Ten Commandments quiz, another student commented that the theater was a rip-off, as in “thou shalt not steal.”

I said it’s called capitalism. If consumers are willing to pay $41 a pound for popcorn and $10.50 per movie ticket then that’s what the theaters will charge you. If you don’t go to the movies they will need to lower their prices to entice you to come or they go out of business. That’s called economics. They got it!

This week I brought to class a Buffalo News story headlined, “Opiate addictions hit infants at high rate.”

After reading the article the class question was this: “Why is it a mother can give birth to a heroin-addicted baby that physically suffers pain hours after birth and that’s not criminal?”

I didn’t have an answer, so I said, let me think about it. We moved on to the cost/benefit analysis part of our discussion. The story stated a newborn required 21 days to be weaned from an opiate at an estimated cost of $16,000. The News said we had 554 heroin-addicted babies born in Erie County and 217 in Niagara County in the past three years.

“Cellphone boy” whipped out his online calculator: 771 x $16,000 = $12,336,000 in medical costs for opiate weaning, not including any follow-up medical issues.

My students asked me: Why isn’t the government putting heroin-addicted moms in a program to help them kick the habit before the little baby is born addicted and needs all this medical intervention? I thought for a minute and replied, “That’s called politics.” They said, “No, that’s called stupid”!

Sometimes teenagers are smarter than we think.