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The National Subjects

There is considerable agreement that the contents of curricula embody ‘legitimate’ knowledge, convey particular myth-symbol complexes and further allegiance or opposition to political institutions. The available literature points to ‘national subjects’ as areas of learning deemed crucial to the construction of nations and nation-states: language, history, geography, religious education and civic education are the prime instruments for divulgation of specific myth-symbol complexes.144

As Chap. 1 mentioned, the Taif, Belfast and Ohrid Agreements emphasise reform of the curricula of national subjects: the Taif Agreement focuses on producing unified curricula and textbooks for history and citizenship education; the Belfast Agreement promotes the Irish language; and the Ohrid Agreement addresses the linguistic demands of ethnic Albanians by granting funding to universities teaching in the language of at least 20 % of the population, guaranteeing mother tongue primary and secondary education, and reaffirming the right of all children to learn the Macedonian language.

Thus, an evaluation of the political function of formal education in con- sociational Lebanon, Northern Ireland and Macedonia requires comparative analysis of debates over the national subjects: Chaps. 4, 5 and 6 look at history education, citizenship education and language policies in the three societies. This work shows that the contents of each national subject emerge from lengthy, and at times brutal negotiations between states and their communities, and among representatives of different communities. Negotiations over the contents and lexicon of curricula can ‘become cultural and ideological battlegrounds’ and reflect the state of inter-communal relations.145 As debates over history education in Lebanon highlight, this is also the case for teaching materials, particularly textbooks, whose existence ‘implies that an agreed knowledge base has been determined’.146

In fact, Davies finds that reform of curricula and textbooks after violent conflicts concentrates either on sanitisation (elimination of controversial contents) or sensitisation (rewording of controversial contents).147 In a third approach, curricula and textbooks may be reformulated to ‘incorporate [a plurality of] group specific epistemological and ontological values and views’.148 Even when they reflect a consensus regarding the past and visions for the future, a unified curriculum can be problematic when it does not speak equally to members of different communities. Conversely, the promotion of different curricula reflecting the cultures and allegiances of different communities may deepen inter-communal distance and mistrust. Finally, multiperspective curricula are often controversial in postconflict societies because they imply granting legitimacy to ‘a tradition aiming at some form of dismemberment of the state’.149 Thus, debates and decisions over curricula in consociational Lebanon, Northern Ireland and Macedonia reflect the dilemmas incurred when attempting to construct

‘states that reflect and incorporate the diversity of their citizens and yet have an overarching set of values, ideals and goals to which all citizens are committed’.150

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