Diversity, values and social change: Renegotiating a consensus on sex education

Thomson, Rachel (1997). Diversity, values and social change: Renegotiating a consensus on sex education. Journal of Moral Education, 26(3) pp. 257–272.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/0305724970260302


This paper explores three interrelated themes in order to contextualise and then propose a values framework for school sex education within a modern plural society. First, it outlines some of the social changes that have contributed to a growing uncertainty about values in British society in the area of sexuality and personal relationships. Secondly, it considers the ways in which policy changes in the area of sex education over the last 10 years have reflected competing claims over the moral legitimacy and content of this area of the curriculum. Thirdly, it describes the work of two related initiatives, that sought to renegotiate a consensus for values within school sex education. The paper suggests that it may not be possible to resolve what are fundamental conflicts of a plural society and argues that a moral agenda for sex education may be most appropriately realised as a pursuit of consistency between politics, policy and practice on the basis of confidence in the abilities of young people, and a recognition of social change.

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