Oy. If it's not one thing it's another in this world.
Twitter has lately been abuzz with talk of the study a professor at Brigham Young University did on language and such in YA literature and then her suggestion that we implement a ratings system for books akin to the movie or video game rating systems.
Let me caveat this here: I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I attended Brigham Young University for my undergraduate studies. While not ashamed of either fact, I don't talk about it here on the blog. This blog is not the place for talk of religion or politics. I intend to keep it that way so if you're getting worried by this, don't. I won't get preachy or anything like that on this blog.
And I think this is a stupid idea. Not only that, but I think this study, the professor's research, may have been bordering on wasteful of the tuition dollars spent at the school. If her research was subsidized in any way by grants or salary through the school, that is.
I'm not as familiar with the ratings systems for video games (*hands in geek card*) as I've largely stepped away from gaming over the last few years.
But the debate over the MPAA ratings system for movies is ever-raging. The biggest problem with the MPAA is that not all movies given the same rating are the same.
I don't go to R-rated movies, as a rule. I rebelled once in college and watched one. Which I have regretted ever since but that's my personal moral code. I rented "The King's Speech" on DVD and loved it. Yes, it was also rated R. But the difference between the two movies I'm discussing in this example are basically night and day. I found absolutely nothing offensive in the latter movie. The one I watched in college, however, had a lot that was pretty gratuitous. It added nothing to the story and was just there to be there.
The problem with ratings systems, aside from the obvious one of the moral code bias of the person or persons creating the system, is that not all books which under arbitrary guidelines would receive the same rating are the same. One book may be such that there are things entirely offensive and gratuitous but the other doesn't. This could hold especially true in non-fiction self help or memoirs. Not to say it wouldn't be the case in fiction, though.
Another factor to consider is the impact ratings will have on the timeline of publishing. How close to the set publishing date is the cut-off for getting a galley or ARC to the ratings committee? What happens if the ratings committee gives the book a rating which the publisher wishes to contest, but the ARCs have already gone out and reviews are written, ready to go out? There's a domino effect which will only compound as publishers and writers fight the system laid on them in order to get their work out in a timely manner, etcetera.
I'm not going to even touch the censorship issues that this would bring up. If you really want to see what the possible ramifications of this would be, just start googling the debate over the MPAA ratings on movies. The prospects are very similar to what would happen if this were implemented in literature.
The bottom line of all of this, in my opinion, is this: If you're worried about what your kids are reading, read the books as they do. Or before. But then discuss with your kids either a) the behaviors, etcetera in the book that you find objectionable, in a rational way, with a two-way conversation going on or b) why you are uncomfortable with them reading the material, etcetera.
Be a parent. Don't rely on others to tell you what may or may not be acceptable. And don't join the mob out there. Form your own opinions and help your kids to form theirs.
*steps off soap box*
Also, if you would like a far more eloquent take on this, go look up Kiersten White's blog. She put up a lengthy post about it this week.
Don't forget to enter the 500 posts giveaway! I'll draw prizes sometime in the first full week of June.