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  • Cited by 8
  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: May 2010

11 - Public education and social reconstruction in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia

    • By Sarah Warshauer Freedman, Professor of Education and Research Fellow of the Human Rights Center, The University of California, Berkeley, USA, Dinka Corkalo, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology, Faculty of Philosophy, The University of Zagreb, Croatia, Naomi Levy, Graduate student in the Department of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley, USA, Dino Abazovic, Member of the Faculty of Political Sciences and Director of the Center for Human Rights, University of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bronwyn Leebaw, Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science, University of California, Riverside, USA, Dean Ajdukovic, Professor of Psychology and Director of the Postgraduate Psychology Program, University of Zagreb, Croatia, Dino Djipa, Research Director of Prism Research, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Harvey M. Weinstein, Associate Director of the Human Rights Center and Clinical Professor of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, USA
  • Edited by Eric Stover, University of California, Berkeley, Harvey M. Weinstein, University of California, Berkeley
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • DOI:
  • pp 226-247


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.