The New Zealand controversy over the Johnson report : the context of the Report of the Committee on Health and Social Education, Growing, Sharing, Learning (1977) : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand
In 1975 the New Zealand Department of Education established a Committee on Health and Social Education, with the aim of addressing curriculum issues that had remained unresolved since the Thomas Report of 1944. Among these concerns was the issue of sex education. This Committee, also known as the Johnson Committee, was conceived under a liberal Labour government but its recommendations were debated during the terms of office of two subsequent National Ministers of Education. The work of the Committee on Health and Social Education was undertaken concurrently with the movements known as the Maori Renaissance and second wave feminism and within a climate of social and legislative change which included the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Bill of 1977. When the Report of the Committee on Health and Social Education, Growing, Sharing, Learning (1977), was published there was little controversy over its sixty-nine recommendations on physical health, outdoor education, parent education, or community involvement in curriculum development. Its two recommendations on sex education however provoked a polarised debate lasting more than five years. In the context of this controversy a coalition of groups representing the Religious Right worked concurrently to oppose further liberalisation of the primary school health education syllabus. This lobby was led by the Concerned Parents' Association, the executive of which assumed the role of the "moral entrepreneur" to raise public awareness on issues of sex and moral education. A range of theory is used to discuss the contextual antecedents of the controversy, the reasons for the controversy and why it became increasingly difficult for the educational policy community to exercise hegemony over the outcomes of the Report. This thesis reveals that the Report of the Committee on Health and Social Education encompassed a bicultural dimension, and was the work of a liberal educational community of interest. It examines the underlying causes of the ideological tensions of the controversy and the construct of moral cathexis is introduced, to explain the means by which the Religious Right was able to influence subsequent policy. It is argued that the same ideological tensions are inherent in contemporary attempts to encompass sex education within the state school curriculum.