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Home arrow Education arrow Education Policy and Power-Sharing in Post-Conflict Societies: Lebanon, Northern Ireland, and Macedonia


Marthoz argues that ‘if geography provides an excuse to make war, history’s role is to prepare and justify it’.204 This also applies to peace. Yet, this chapter demonstrates that the reform of history education is rarely a political and financial priority for post-war governments.

This chapter has compared initiatives with reform history education in consociational Lebanon, Northern ireland and Macedonia. it shows first that it is difficult to determine whether curricular reforms promote or just reflect conflict transformation and reconciliation. Hopken’s suggestion that textbooks promoting reconciliation can only be produced once conflict has ended exemplifies this chicken-and-egg problem. This vicious circle affects deeply divided societies such as Lebanon, Northern ireland and Macedonia, where there is no consensus over whether conflicts have ended. In fact, their consociational political systems are premised on the management rather than the resolution of violent inter-group conflicts.

This chapter confirms that ‘if the political conflict is not resolved, it is impossible to elaborate’ an ‘institutionally legitimised version of what took place’.205 This explains why schools in Macedonia and Lebanon reach ‘the end of history’ before their respective conflicts. It also suggests that Macedonia’s emphasis on nation-building through the history curricula is detrimental to mutual trust and reconciliation among the local ethno- linguistic communities. Similarly, the obstinate attempt to formulate a unified history curriculum in Lebanon has, if anything, further polarised opinions over the past. In both societies, historical narratives are easily mobilised by political and communal elites in the context of pervasive insecurity, fear of state collapse and relapse into violence. In contrast, Northern Ireland’s experiment in decoupling history and national identity through a skills-based approach to history education has allowed the formulation of modules on the Troubles. However, Northern Ireland’s approach also highlights the challenges in promoting political stability in the absence of overarching narratives of the past, and confirms that a multiperspective history can be taught in schools only if political elites (and the communities they represent) endow alternative narratives of the past with a modicum of legitimacy.

Moreover, debates over history education in these three deeply divided societies reveal a lack of consensus over the political function of history education. On the one hand, history is expected to promote unity and social cohesion among citizens belonging to different ethnic, confessional, linguistic and political communities. On the other hand, it is expected to further reconciliation by reflecting, acknowledging and valuing the specific narratives of each community. Thus, this chapter demonstrates that initiatives for the reform of history education fail when they contradict the principles of pluralism and parity of esteem. The failure to produce a unified textbook presenting a narrative, homogeneous history of Lebanon is an obvious example. This chapter also shows that reforms take hold when they reflect and reproduce the sociopolitical building blocks of the three consociations by accommodating different narratives of the past (in Northern Ireland) or applying consociational expedients to curriculum drafting (as with Macedonia’s proportional curriculum).

Finally, this chapter confirms that history education in consociational Lebanon, Northern Ireland and Macedonia does not challenge the socialisation of children into separate and potentially antagonistic narratives of the past. Divergent histories are associated with the ethnic, confessional and national communities that participated in violent conflict and now share political power. This consolidates the communities on which conso- ciational politics is founded and legitimises, or at least does not challenge, the authority of those political leaders who participated in war. Thus, history education may help stabilise the consociational political system in the short term.

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