Throw the dice and learn about censorship

25th April 2008 at 01:00
A new board game to engage young people in the "fundamental issues of human rights and freedom of expression" was launched in Glasgow this month

A new board game to engage young people in the "fundamental issues of human rights and freedom of expression" was launched in Glasgow this month.

"Free Zoravia" pits journalists and writers charged with "insulting the state" against the repressive government of a fictional country. As in real life, the "enemies" of the regime are disadvantaged at almost every throw of the dice, underlining what censorship is about.

The game has been produced by the Scottish arm of PEN, the writers' association that campaigns for freedom of expression. It was developed with the help of secondary schools during a two-year PENpower education project, which offered workshops on freedom of expression, led by writers and journalists.

Among those taking part in the launch were Kathy O'Donnell, a librarian, and Suzanne Aldous, an English teacher from Balfron High, Stirling, who jointly run a weekly creative writing group for 11- to 17-year-olds. They used the project to help pupils develop a "sense of empathy with other writers".

A week before their workshop with Robin Lloyd-Jones, a former teacher, past president of Scottish PEN and creator of the "Free Zoravia" game, they ran a session on censorship. The students were given the titles of 150 books which they had to fetch from the library. Suzanne then told them the whole pile was offensive and inappropriate for a school and was to be carried outside and burnt.

"The responses were what you would have wanted," said Kathy. "`You can't do that!' they said, `We all think these are good books!' and `What right do you have to make decisions about what we read?'

"It gave them an idea about what censorship is, and it was good to see them rebelling against authority."

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