As I was reading on page 156 of Etienne Wenger's Communities of Practice book about negotiating pardigmatic trajectories, and how these can be reified milestones or actual people, it dawned on me that Wenger was talking, in layman's terms, about how people need a model for how to perform, achieve, and become. This is something I believe strongly, and I have written up some research about the importance of modeling in helping preservice teachers as they join the teaching community.
Anyway, in my own community of church youth, I have seen the importance of models. For starters, they will only ask members of the faith that they feel model good conduct to work with the youth, because they want the youth to see good models of grown adults. Also, the youth themselves are models for each other, particularly the older ones. Our scout troop is small, and contains boys of all ages, whereas most troops are only comprised of 12 to 14-year-olds. At scout camp, our troop was remarkably better behaved than all the others and must more productive. Why? Because we have a great 16-year-old Senior Patrol Leader that sets the tone and gives the model, and the other boys fall in line with him, whereas other troops have boys all of the same age, without clear models of older youth for them to follow.
I have also thought that in schools, children would learn more appropriate behavior, and we would see a decline in cliques, bullying, mob behavior, and better learning if the grades were more integrated so that older children worked alongside younger ones. The older kids would provide the model, and it would break up the cliques that occur when you have a bunch of kids of the same age associating together.
I don't know if that would really work, but it just seems logical to me that it could.