Throughout history, governments of all political stripes have used history and literature curricula to reinforce national ideologies and identities. The promulgation of official memory through the school system can be an effective form of propaganda. The educational setting can become a conduit for the government or leaders' views, presenting political ideas and beliefs as either “correct” or “incorrect.” Textbooks and curricula can be used to justify or deny past state crimes, create revisionist history, present on-going injustices as natural, or perpetuate attitudes that replicate the conditions under which injustices are committed. Where school systems remain segregated and unequal, education can be manipulated to perpetuate inequalities that are a legacy of past conflicts, dispossession, or repression.
If public education can function to inflame hatreds, mobilize for war, and teach acceptance of injustice, it can be used also as a powerful tool for the cultivation of peace, democratic change, and respect for others. This premise has been a prominent focus of the United Nations (UN) Office of the High Representative (OHR) in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), as well as numerous non-governmental organizations (NGOs) throughout the Balkans and in conflict zones around the world. If children living in divided societies can come together in the schools, this contact can be used to help them question the prejudices and stereotypes in their surrounding environment.
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