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Mission Impossible

As director of the Centre for Educational Research and Development (CERD), Munir Abu Assali was tasked with initiating a full curricular reform, including what many saw as the ‘impossible mission’ of tackling the history curriculum, which had remained untouched since 1968-1970.47 Abu Assali argues that he insisted on some ground rules for reform. He maintained that all political and religious groups should be involved in debates aimed at reaching ‘a new consensus’ based on an allegiance to

Lebanon superseding previous confessional compromises. He insisted reforms should fulfil the promises of the Taif Agreement. He promoted transparent decision-making, with solutions reached by consensus rather than by majority voting to ‘preserve unity among different communities’, arguing that ‘we have different belongings so we cannot impose our point of view’ and that majority voting could ‘break’ the committee. Finally, he insisted on swift implementation of decisions, to avoid any political volte- face, and on involving the public in policy evaluation and debate.48

A committee including political and religious representatives was convened to finalise and publish the main aims and principles of a new history curriculum. According to a CERD officer, the committee also started drafting textbooks, completing six books.49 Abu Assali argues that the books drafted under his supervision reminded children that conflict among Lebanese citizens, and calls for external help could lead to ‘catastrophe’ and to the collapse of the state. He maintains that the books presented Lebanon’s history as ‘the mixture of the different histories’ of the many religious communities, and encouraged respect for different perspectives. He also claims that they were designed to stimulate critical thinking through informed research, debate and group presentations.50 Still, between 1997 and 1999, curricula for every subject were published and distributed, except for history.

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