Role Models

I love bad movies. I find them to be so relaxing because I know exactly what will happen in the end. Once you get the “boy-meets girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl back” formula, you can just relax and watch the predictable nonsense ensue. I always turn to my movie-goer friend during romantic comedies and sarcastically ask, “I wonder if they will end up together in the end?!” Or in any teen movie, “I wonder if the moral of the story will be to ‘be yourself!’”

Well this past week, I dragged my fiancé to “Role Models” starring Paul Rudd. It’s a classic tale of buffoonery in which two loser guys are court-ordered to volunteer in a mentoring program. I convinced him that I needed to go for work purposes. You know, I need to know about role models and such. I have to say, as a purveyor of fine bad movies, this one gets my Best Of 2008 vote. I actually laughed out loud on multiple occasions; I’m ashamed to say. In one such scene, the two loser “adults” begin smacking each other in the car and then two seconds later, their two kids they’re supposed to be role models for start smacking each other around for no reason.

Now it’s common knowledge that kids learn by observing and model the behaviors of those around them. But how important are “role models” anyway? Does it really make that big of a difference? I am thinking specifically of my young African American students who now have an African American President-elect. How big of a difference can Obama really make?

The research on social learning (learning by observing others) would say that the higher status the role model, the more kids will try to emulate them. That is the reason that advertisers use Michael Jordan to sell absolutely everything, including underwear, and not Michael Jenkins, your neighbor.* So will Obama’s high status job get kids interested in politics or someday running for office? Maybe, maybe not, but it will certainly give more options in role models to emulate, and that is a good thing.

*Plus, “Be like Jenkins!” is just not catchy.

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