Purposely removing foul language from a book seems like a lie to me. Obviously, use of swear words solely to shock or to excess is its own problem. However, I certainly would not want to see the books bleached into something unrealistic. Apparently, a bunch of concerned parents are worried that their precious snowflakes will read these books and want to swear like the characters do, as the ones who swear tend to be popular and attractive. Another thought: the popular, attractive kids at my school did swear, because they were all edgy and cool and old for their years. So, unless your kid goes to a magic school without this hierarchy, they probably idolize people like that anyway. Novels should reflect the truth of life, even if that includes swearing.
As of yesterday, Sarah Coyne had a new idea: add a rating system to YA books, just like movies are rated. Again, the blogosphere has been full of discussion about this topic. I suppose I wouldn't be hugely angered if they (the powers that be) put this into effect, but I definitely think it's stupid.
Why do they want to do this anyway? Is it for the kids and teens? No, not really. It's for their parents, who are too damn lazy to read the book or research it before letting their lil' snowflake read it. If you're going to be so controlling of your child's reading material, then you should be willing to put some work in, I say.
I worry that should such a practice be put in place, reading might decline. Applying a rating like PG-13 to a MG/YA book would definitely lead certain types of parents to forbid their child from reading it. If that child has an adult reading level and understanding, he/she could be turned off to reading, because of the limitation to only PG reading material. Other parents would forbid their children to read ANY book with swearing or sex or drugs, which is a shame too, because kids are going to be confronted with these things, and a book can help them consider the implications. Besides, a label for swearing in a novel could indicate one or two instances of swearing or a hundred. The prohibition would be in place just the same.
My parents never restricted my reading, and while I may not have turned out like those parents desire (I can be rather filthy-mouthed at times), I think I turned out okay, and probably better (by their standards) than a number of those micromanaged children. I really don't remember stumbling across any books that contained material I was not ready to read, and I transitioned directly from children's books to the adult section, since teen material was paltry when I was growing up. If a kid's not ready for a book, the language will probably be too much. Or, if they picked up a Chuck Palahniuk book and were horrified no end by it, they can just put it down.
Parents, if you're worried about what your kids are reading, you don't need to force publishers to add this info to books. What you can do is go search for blogs that warn their readers about this kind of content. One that I know of is Reading Teen. Many bloggers set out with cataloging the cleanliness of books for those that are concerned. With a little bit of research, this information is out there.