Caitlan Flanagan has an interesting profile of “Dr.” Laura Schlessinger disguised as a review of the latter’s newest book. Flanagan gets to the essence of Schlessinger’s appeal with this paragraph:
If you want to know whether the divorce culture has been a disaster for children, tune in to the Dr. Laura show one day. The mainstream media have a cheery name for families rent asunder and then patched together by divorce and remarriage: they are “blended families.” But the day-to-day reality of what such blending wreaks upon children is often harsh. The number of children who are being shuttled back and forth between households, and the heartrending problems that this engenders in their lives, is a sin. Every June, Dr. Laura fields multiple calls having to do with transporting reluctant children across vast distances so that court-ordered visitation agreements can be honored. Whereas an article in Parents magazine or the relentlessly upbeat family-life columns in Time might list some mild and generally useless tips for dealing with such a situation (have the child bring along a “transitional object,” plan regular phone calls home, and so forth), Laura throws out the whole premise. What in the world are the parents doing living so far away from each other? One of them needs to pick up stakes and move. “I can’t do that,” the caller always says. “Yes, you can,” Laura always replies, and when you think about it, she’s right.
Flanagan later goes on to note that Schlessinger is something of a nut, not to mention a raving hypocrite. But she nonetheless admires the straightforwardness of her advocacy of children. Dean Esmay does, too.
Personally, I find her repugnant. For one thing, she masquerades as “Dr. Laura,” which is rather misleading under the circumstances. Schlessinger has certificates in family counseling but she is not a medical doctor nor a psychologist–she has a doctorate in Physiology. That would be akin to me hosting a medical call-in show as “Dr. Joyner.” Legitimate professionals are quick to point out when they’re speaking as experts and where they are merely informed laymen.
Mainly, though, she is too harsh and simplistic. She’s the Judge Judy of advice shows. Hiding behind the cloak of legitimacy of unrelated credentials, Schlessinger dispenses off-the-cuff vitriol and reactionary bromides without much consideration of real-life consequences. She thinks men have a duty to, for example, give up their careers and follow their looney ex-wives wherever they happen to go if it allows them to be near their children. While that makes sense in LauraLand it also means that the guy won’t have a sufficient income to meet his court-ordered child support obligations. It’s silly and unproductive advice. Not to mention mostly harmful.