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They are young and married and successful. Successful enough, at least, to walk into a local real estate office on a Saturday morning as newlyweds and buy a house, just like that.

But then, why not?

After all, he's a brain surgeon. She's a lawyer. And life is meant to be lived. Now.

Well, maybe not immediately.

Because in reality Kristen Krupski and Billy Woodman are still seniors at Needham High School in a western suburb of Boston. Their ``wedding,'' ``new house,'' and ``high-paying careers'' are mere fantasies - dreamed up as part of a unit on marriage in their psychology-sociology class.

By giving students ``real life'' assignments like this, rather than textbook examples, teachers hope to encourage them to think about the economic and emotional realities of marriage.

Kenneth Holt, a social studies teacher who developed this course in 1969, cites a 50 percent divorce rate as evidence that some education - some practical preparation - for marriage is badly needed.

There are classroom seminars about such special topics as children, sexuality, dual-career couples, and finances. Values are introduced into the discussion by visiting members of the clergy.

But it is outside projects - centering on budgets, housing, and groceries - that often provide the best lessons. Here, says teacher Alan Otis, students learn the first lesson of marriage - seeing choices from the other person's point of view.

Thinking of ``we'' instead of ``I'' doesn't rule out thinking expensive - and this may be a commentary on American middle-class values. While Kristen and Billy were choosing their house, Amy Prensky and her ``husband'' were selecting a Jaguar.

Tom Griffin and his ``wife'' included such ``entertainment necessities'' as a 60-inch television, a Jacuzzi, and a video camcorder as they shopped for appliances. And classmates Kim Patkin and Tom Dorgan filled a grocery cart with $179 worth of food for a week.

Profligate spending may not be exactly what Mr. Otis had in mind when he gave the assignment. But these high-flying dreams in this middle-class suburb are consistent with a growing sense of economic power and entitlement evident among teen-agers throughout the country.


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