Overton Window

Posted on 06/09/2014 by John Poland CEO, Town Hall Foundation
You can think of an Overton Window as a spectrum of ideas, with each idea on a continuum having more and more support/political acceptance; till you get to the level of idea being an official government policy; and then further up the spectrum less and less support again.

Let's look at the usual example: Education policy.

In a typical state, say Michigan, there are a variety of options regarding the State's involvement in children's education.

Each option has a certain level of popular support, which are roughly grouped into 6 bands: Unthinkable/Radical/Acceptable/Sensible/Popular/Policy. The last band is the level of acceptance which is high enough that the government can implement the idea as policy.

The point made by Overton (aside from the bands) is that usually, a very narrow range of ideas on the spectrum have political acceptance.

Acceptability Level      Idea 
Unthinkable              No government involvement in education. 
Radical                  All schools private with government regulation. 
Radical                  Voucher system with public schools. 
Radical                  Tuition tax credit with public schools. 
Acceptable               Homeschooling legal. 
Popular/Policy           Private schools restricted. 
Acceptable               Homeschooling illegal. 
Radical                  Private schools illegal. 
Unthinkable              Children taken from parents and raised as janissaries.

Based on this general concept, we can tackle the issue of the two 12 year old WI girls who brutally stabbed and almost killed another 12 year old girl. It turns out that there is a debate over the direct cause and effect of watching digital content and acting out on the violence of that content

The girls, both from Waukesha, a Milwaukee suburb, told investigators they had been planning to kill their 12-year-old friend for months to please Slenderman, a fictional demon-like creature they learned about through a horror website, according to a criminal complaint. They went into the woods, where one girl pushed the victim down and sat on her. The girls then traded the knife back and forth between them before one of them finally tackled the victim again and began stabbing her, according to the complaint. The victim suffered 19 stab wounds; one missed a major artery near her heart by a millimeter, doctors told police.

It appears certain that the two girls, being tried as adults, followed the direction of Slenderman. Many critics complain that the Website could not have been a direct cause because there are conflicting studies. The THF has established the direct cause and effect between music lyrics and childhood development. Let’s look at the state of the conversation for video games.

Children who play violent video games may experience an increase in aggressive thoughts, which in turn, could boost their aggressive behavior, a controversial new study conducted in Singapore suggests.

In the study, children ages 8 to 17 who played a lot of violent video games showed an increase in aggressive behavior such as hitting, shoving and pushing three years later, compared to their behavior at the study start.

Meanwhile, those who decreased the amount of time they spent playing violent video games saw a decrease in aggressive behavior, the researchers said.

The reason for the increase in aggressive behavior was that children who played a lot of violent video games had an increase in aggressive thoughts: for instance, they were more likely to interpret an ambiguous act, like someone bumping into them, as hostile, said study researcher Craig Anderson, a psychologist and professor at Iowa State University. They were also more likely to see aggressive behavior as an appropriate way to respond to provocation, Anderson said.

"Children and adolescents who play a lot of [violent] games change over time, they start to see aggressive solutions as being more reasonable," ways to respond to conflict or frustration, Anderson told Live Science.

However, experts not involved with the study say that the research has flaws, and does not add anything meaningful to the debate over whether violent video games increase aggression, which has been a contentious issue. They also say that other researchers should be allowed to analyze the data, to see if they find the same result.

By extension and following the principles of the Overton Window, the leap from the impact of music on adolescents can be extrapolated to the Website content. The facts are clear, the Website was the cause and effect and we have no business denying that digital content was the cause.

That’s the message for today, more coming.

King of Country to Retire

Posted on 05/26/2014 by John Poland CEO, Town Hall Foundation

Is it really possible for a music artist to survive and be on top of his game spanning four decades? In today’s world of music where the tell all - show all attitude and Over-The-Top lyrics that match the bizarre behavior, can an artist continue to please the listening  audience. Miley Cyrus at the age of twenty-one has bared all and unless she has extra-terrestrial powers, her bareness only goes downhill from here.

Well sit back and reflect on the King of Country, George Strait. With 60 number one hits, over 70 million albums sold, 13 multi-platinum, 33 platinum, and 38 gold albums sold, he currently holds the world record for more number-one hit singles than any other artist in the history of music on any chart or in any genre.

George plays to an audience that does not tolerate lyrics that are defined as offensive by the THF. All of his accolades show that an artist can survive for years and years, make money selling music, perform live into his sixties, and not be offensive according to the Town Hall Foundation.

He joins others performers like: Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Mariah Carey, Elton John and others as the top individual music artists. In perspective, George Strait is at the top of his game today and was when he started. That makes him stand apart from the others. With a steady performance spanning over four decades the Town Hall Foundation salutes this music trooper.

That’s the message for today, more coming.

Donald Sterling and the Music Industry

Posted on 05/12/2014 by John Poland CEO, Town Hall Foundation

Donald Sterling, the 80 year old owner of the LA Clippers was banned from the NBA, fined $2.5M and will be asked to sell his franchise. This punishment was delivered by the commissioner of the NBA, Adam Silver, only days after a private tape of conversations showed him as a racist by the NBA and the media.

The Town Hall Foundation wholeheartedly agrees with the punishment as there is no room for hurtful racial speech in sports or any other venue. There are some who believe that private conversations remain private but in this case those comments became public leading to the ban. That said, again, his comments were offensive and hurtful, justifying the punishment.

Now how does this relate to the music industry? For too many years, the music industry has not self-regulated itself nor has a non-bias outside organization chosen to pressure the industry to adopt standards. Sterling’s comments were aimed at all African Americans regardless of age, but when all is said and done, victims of his horrific language are not likely to take to the streets with violence on their minds.

That is not true for the music industry. From the five studies we post on our Website, we can discern a direct correlation from offensive music lyrics and unacceptable behavior in children ages 5-17. This Cause and Effect has been established for years, yet no one except the Town Hall Foundation has taken up the pen and called out the artists that produce offensive lyrics.

Our certified staff of schoolteachers, after careful training, follow the THF’s protocol for reviewing all music. The reviews are peer reviewed to ensure that outcomes are consistent with our review criteria. This process takes approximately three hours per song.

Hiding under the umbrella of the first amendment to the Constitution, artists belch out vile lyrics that shock our children and create a new norm of behavior. With Smartphones and the like, our children listen to songs over and over and over creating a Brainwashing effect and they follow through with the behavior celebrated by the offending artists. All of this for the sake of making money.

The Town Hall Foundation Website displays reviewed songs and posts the offensive lyrics. As an example, the song, “Love Me” by Lil’ Wayne contains many specific lyrics that violate our review criteria. The review is available at www.thetownhallfoundation.org/reviews/21 and the offensive lyrics will be displayed when you click on the “Show Offensive Lyrics” button.

In context of the Donald Sterling racial comments, these lyrics aimed at children are completely reprehensible.

When will we ban together and fight the fight against these music artists. The infrastructure at the THF is complete. All we need to do to ensure the music distribution industry has a strong data base of offensive songs is time and money. When funded, we will review 5,000 songs released in 2014 and when funded we will go back ten years to ensure that already released offensive songs are pulled from the inventories.

The NBA rose up against Donald Sterling and correctly so. When will we; parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters and yes even our children rise up and say enough is enough. Support the Town Hall Foundation at www.thetownhallfoundation.org.

That’s the message for today, more coming.

Age of Cyber Bullying

Posted on 04/28/2014 by John Poland CEO, Town Hall Foundation

From the Age of Aquarius to the Age of Cyber Bullying, one of many generational divides between grandparents and today’s children. In the 60-70’s children didn’t have the technology tools of today. They struggled without cell phones, laptops, tablets, CD’s, iPods, and other devices that use the technology of today.

But, today our children are being bombarded by the Over-The-Top-Lyrics of music artists who are more content on making money rather than paying attention to the impact their music has on children. In the Wingood and DiClemente study, 500 adolescent girls were followed for a one year time period. The study groups were evenly divided and the control group listened to music that would be approved by the THF. The other group listened to music that would earn the THF Stamp of Shame.

The second group of adolescent girls were three times more likely to have hit a teacher; more than two-and-a-half times more likely to have been arrested; twice as likely to have had multiple sexual partners and more than one-and-a-half times greater to have contracted a new sexual disease than those subjects with lower exposure during the study time-frame. Listening to Over-The-Top lyrics caused behavior changes: BRAINWASHING occurred. The direct Cause and Effect was indisputable, bad lyrics led to bad behavior.

So why are we surprised when adolescents use the very technology that has brainwashed them to act out and Cyber Bully their peers? As an example: Reymundo and Shellie Esquivel are filing a lawsuit against six of their teenage daughter’s schoolmates and their parents, alleging that the students created an Instagram account aimed at humiliating her and fellow classmates. “When we opened up the web page on Instagram, we opened up Pandora’s box. There was a picture of her and all these vulgar postings of her underneath the photograph.”

Some pictures on the account were normal and taken right from the pages of the victims accounts, like the Esquivels’ daughter, a high school sophomore, but the page also featured explicit photos of other children. "Some of them were topless photos of females, bottomless photos of males."

When parents finally understand that they might be libel for civil suits for negligence, maybe they will wake up and offer coaching and counseling on the use of the Internet with their children.

That’s the message for today, more coming.

Snorting Smarties

Posted on 04/14/2014 by John Poland CEO, Town Hall Foundation

What we say and what we do matters. Many parents coach their kids to behave in a particular manner according to the parent’s rules and values. Our kids listen and hopefully internalize the new data. But children are sharper than we think; they also watch adult behavior and use the monkey-see-monkey-do process of acting out on behaviors.

When we tell our children not to smoke and as adults we light up and inhale, our children see and hear mixed messages. When we tell our children not to do drugs and then smoke marijuana or snort a line coke at home, our children become conflicted. When we tell our children not to bully the other children and dad hits mom, the children don’t understand. When we tell our children to embrace all races and religions and we use hateful words and show the face of bigotry, our children are confused.

As adults we need to walk the talk and be role models for our children. So why talk about snorting Smarties?

Students at Portsmouth Middle School were caught snorting Smarties candy, a trend that reports show is increasing. It might sound like a joke, but State Behavioral Health Care Administrator Rebecca Boss says the matter is just as serious and dangerous as most inhaled drugs - the threat of irritation and infection.

But why are the kids snorting anything. Who are the teachers and what are the expected outcomes by the children? If mom or dad snort a white powder and feel “good”, is that enough for children to snort smarties? If our music artists talk about snorting drugs, maybe our children are smarter than we think and link the two behaviors. Our parents are doing it and our music role models do it, so why not figure it out and we can do it too. Monkey see, Monkey do.

That’s the message for today,more coming.