Censorship and the drama curriculum: A study of the censoring of HSC Drama texts for study and performance in the experience of nine educators working in secondary Christian schools in New South Wales

John D Montgomery

PhD thesis, conferred 2016

This research investigates the contributing factors that influence policy and practice relevant to the censoring of the senior secondary school drama curriculum. Specifically, it examines the practice of and the philosophical basis for censorship in the study and performance of HSC Drama in secondary non-government schools in New South Wales.

This study employs an interpretative paradigm of educational research based on a constructivist methodology using narrative analysis. As such the research methodology is a qualitative study employing the tools of interview and questionnaire to three case studies. The three case studies investigated are the three main Christian school systems in New South Wales: Catholic, Protestant and non-denominational Christian schools. In each case study, there is an HSC Drama teacher, a drama faculty head and a director of curriculum. The aim of this study is to produce high-quality, in-depth understandings of why and how censorship operates in these case studies. This study will be of interest and practical use to teachers and principals. These findings demonstrate a chilling effect is widespread in these critical cases. This fear is influencing school management, teachers and students to censor and self-censor texts. This censorship is significantly diminishing the breadth and richness of the curriculum, narrowing student engagement with diverse ideas and significant theatre practitioners. The motivation for these decisions of censorship is often influenced by fear of potential reprisal for the teacher and the school’s reputation. Censorship responses are not often deeply considered and reasoned but rather frequently motivated by appeasement. Issues of the chilling effect, hegemony, determining values and standards, and decision-making processes emerge as themes of this study.

The division, diversity and passion in the stories of the respondents, demonstrate a need to develop a conceptual framework and review process to support censorship discourse in schools that is balanced and free of fear. The conceptual framework and review process that this study posits will assist teachers, principals and school communities to make well informed and rationally considered decisions in developing an appropriately broad and balanced arts curriculum.

Supervisor: Professor Michael Anderson