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Books and barbarians

In the 1980s, America's great books courses became a cultural battleground. Stephanie Flanders considers the views of the latest crusader against political correctness

A society that has ceased to question what its students read has ceased to question itself. That is the positive reading of the culture wars which have gripped American academia for the past decade. Ever since Allan Bloom’s 1987 tirade against academic political correctness, The Closing of the American Mind, no American publisher’s list has been complete without another volume either berating, or defending, the state of the country’s curricula.

Britain is not immune to such disputes: witness Chris Woodhead’s broadside about the lack of decent “role models” in our most popular books and television programmes. Yet, lists of the…

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