Wednesday, May 23, 2012

On Rating YA Books

I'm not sure what to say about this article about a proposed mature content rating system for YA books, because on the one hand, I support parents having the information they need to decide what's appropriate for their kids, and there isn't necessarily an obvious reason why movies and TV should having ratings and books shouldn't. But on the other hand, everything in me is screaming NO NO NO NO NO! There's no possible way this would be accomplished in any fair way - movie ratings certainly aren't - and obviously the person who did this study, some professor at a religious university, shouldn't have any universal power to label things. But really, that's a lot of the issue: Who would be qualified to make these decisions? Probably anyone who wanted to wouldn't be people we'd want in charge of these things. And if we get beyond mere instances of a certain list of words, everything's open to interpretation. With movies or TV, at least, certain things are clear-cut: Certain body parts are on the screen or they aren't. But different books could describe the same basic things so wildly differently as to make it all but impossible to know how to categorize them. And without some fair, objective way to categorize things, there's no way this would make sense, since different parents have different standards for "appropriate" material. I won't go so far as some people who have said that all kids should have access to all books with no restrictions, because I do believe that parents have the right to make rules about what their children (and only their own children) read. But this certainly doesn't seem like the way to accomplish anything truly helpful to anyone.

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