Encountering the Other: Settler Grammars, Native Protestant Ideology, and Citizenship in the American Girl Books

Abstract

This paper explores the American Girl book series and its relation to the history of American education and the school’s role in the creation of the ideal American girl. Focused on the Kirsten Larson series of American Girl books, this paper explores how the settler grammars that characterize Kirsten’s encounters with an “Indian girl” named Singing Bird become entangled with the institution and ideologies of schooling to produce a certain vision of the American girl, both in the books. I argue that the author’s use of settler grammars to promote the Native Protestant Ideology throughout the series teaches Kirsten not only lessons about citizenship and morality, but the role schools should play in cultivating certain citizenship beliefs and traits in American schoolchildren. In particular, the books in the Kirsten series promotes the myth of the innate superiority of white immigrants and Native Protestant culture over the Indigenous peoples, cultures, and lands those immigrants colonized. Living in story, these representations and ideologies continue the ongoing work of colonization in a settler nation as American schoolchildren today continue to consume these oppressive narratives wrapped neatly under the title “American Girl.”

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Correspondence to Stephanie Schroeder.

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Stephanie Schroeder

is an Assistant Professor of Education (Social Studies Education) at the Pennsylvania State University–University Park where she teaches courses in elementary social studies methods, democratic education, and citizenship education for civic engagement. Her research interests revolve around the teaching and learning of citizenship and civic agency on social media and in PK-16 classrooms.

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Schroeder, S. Encountering the Other: Settler Grammars, Native Protestant Ideology, and Citizenship in the American Girl Books. Child Lit Educ (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10583-021-09448-7

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Keywords

  • American Girl
  • Citizenship
  • Ideology
  • Indigenous peoples
  • Settler grammars