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Why Most Lebanese History Books End at 1943

Lebanon is a nation of many religious groups. Shi'ites, Sunnis, Druze, Maronite and Coptic Christians, Jews and others share the land. But often there is tension, and sometimes violence.

Over the years, the differences between the groups have made it hard for educators to write a unified national history. An agreement in 1989, called the Taif Accord ended the 15-year Lebanese civil war. The agreement called for the same civic education to be taught across the country. The goal was to increase national unity. But the effort to agree on one national history has failed.

Most history textbooks in Lebanon stop in 1943, the year of Lebanese independence. The duty of teaching children about their country's recent history has fallen mainly on parents. That can increase divisions among the different groups.

The Green Space School is an elementary school in Beirut. It is on the edge of Christian, Druze and Shi'ite neighborhoods. The school's head, Maha Kassem, says these religious ties can make history lessons a source of disagreement. She says some lessons have to be changed to avoid arguments among the students.

Syrian forces withdrew from Lebanon in 2005 after a 29-year occupation. A series of protests against the occupation led to the withdrawal. The protests were called the "Cedar Revolution." But Lebanese school children may never read about the protests in school.

A government committee recently decided to remove the words "Cedar Revolution" from the education plan for a national middle school history textbook. So without agreement, Lebanese schools often choose textbooks based on the religion or their students.

For VOA Learning English, I'm Carolyn Presutti.