This dissertation calls for a shift in the way scholars approach the role of schooling in democratic participation. Much of the scholarship documenting unequal schooling conditions exposes the absence of civic learning opportunities in under-resourced schools, and conversely, how more rigorous academics and democratic learning environments in higher resourced schools result in higher rates of youth political participation. However, more analyses are needed that interrogate the ideologies that undergird these “successful” students’ political ideas and practices and that explore how homogenous schooling environments, specifically predominantly white and politically conservative schools, impact the development of youth in these spaces. Also, not sufficiently considered is the impact of settler colonialism in structuring relationships, ideologies, and schooling, and how these derive from and give rise to specific relationships to the nation-state. Reading, Writing and Right-Wing Reproduction: The Teaching and Learning of Settler Citizenship in Ohio offers this contribution and investigates the political ideologies that circulate and are (re)produced within spaces commonly perceived as “good schools.” This dissertation looks at the everyday life in US Government classrooms and asks: What role does schooling play in shaping how youth come to think and act politically?
A political ethnography of schooling, this project examines the political education occurring in two predominantly white high schools in central Ohio: one in an affluent suburb, the other in a working-class semi-agricultural small town. Drawing upon observations, interviews, and documents from students and teachers, findings show that both schools play important roles in the (re)production of settler citizenship and this process is: 1) teacher-facilitated through ascription to politically neutral pedagogy that, in fact, reifies right-wing hegemony 2) student co-constructed via funds of settler knowledge that students draw from and deploy to co-create communities of practice where settler logics are apprenticed, and 3) sanctioned in school communities though a settler-normed pubic sphere that amplifies dominant ideologies and serves an assimilatory function into the white settler normative citizen. These findings highlight the importance of accounting for the sociocultural and, ultimately, colonial contexts in which political education takes place and the impact this has to (re)produce settler power and engagement in the public sphere. As scholars and education practitioners continue to theorize and research schools as potential sites of democracy-building, this research offers insights with regard to how we approach citizenship, governance, and political engagement and the (im)possibilities of disrupting settler-citizenship education in the classrooms of those most benefited by political and social structures as they are.