When children of color enter their classrooms each year, many often encounter low expectations, disconnection, and other barriers to their success. In The Innocent Classroom, Alexs Pate traces the roots of these disparities to pervasive negative stereotypes, which children are made aware of before they even walk through the school door. The cumulative weight of these stereotypes eventually takes shape as guilt, which inhibits students' engagement, learning, and relationships and hurts their prospects for the future.
If guilt is the primary barrier for children of color in the classroom, then the solution, according to Pate, is to create an Innocent Classroom that neutralizes students' guilt and restores their innocence. To do so, readers will embark on a relationship "construction project" in which they will deepen their understanding of how children of color are burdened with guilt; discover students' "good," or the motivation behind their behaviors, and develop strategic responses to that good; and nurture, protect, and advocate for students' innocence.
Ultimately, students will reclaim their innocence and begin to make choices that will lead to their success. Teachers will renew their commitment to their students. And the current ineffective system can give way to one that reflects a more enlightened understanding of who our children are—and what they are capable of.
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