Mormons and Dr. Laura

Jeff Spector Mormon 54 Comments

Dr. Laura Schlessinger is a radio talk show host, heard in the United States Monday-Friday all across the country.  The bio from her website is here and the Wikipedia entry, which probably has more information than she would want you to know, is here.

I will occasionally listen to her either over the Internet while I am working or in the car.  Her politics are way more conservative than mine, which I dislike, but generally, I think she gives pretty good advice.  Sometimes, she can be short with some people and her listening skills are occasionally not very good.

She was raised in a Jewish-Catholic household, which according to her was not very nice. Later in life, she converted to Orthodox Judaism and would often dispense advice from that perspective.  Jewish people would call her up and ask specific advice around religious matters and she would sometimes consult her Rabbi for answers. In 2003, she announced she was no longer a practicing Orthodox Jew.

One of the things I notice is that a lot of Mormons call her up to seek advice on a variety of topics. I am probably sensitized to the language used, but I can almost always tell when members call her. They drop those words like Bishop, temple, mission, family, Utah, priesthood, calling, Church or other key words most of us would recognize. I have the feeling she gets a lot of calls from Utah.

She is generally favorable toward religion and pretty against interfaith marriage. Here is a link to a story told about advice she gave to a young man, disaffected from the Church, but feeling pressure to serve a mission. Her answer may surprise you.

She is very supportive of the Church and I have heard her both praise the Church and its members and defend it against derogatory comments made during a call.  Here is a link to a blog she wrote in praise of the Church’s welfare program.  Members have contributed to her charities with blankets and quilts during a drive she sponsored.

Any thoughts?

Comments

comments

Comments 54

  1. I’ve heard her defend the church on occasion as well, but after seeing some of the nekkid pics of her floating around the Internet a few years ago, I can no longer take her seriously.

  2. I deleted my first attempt. My enormous concern about her is the fact that she gives advice she’s, clearly, not qualified as a Physiologist, to give and that her own personal life in a train wreck. Nevertheless, she goes on counseling people to create family friction and rigidly discard relationships. =o

    I also was witness to her very early career and have no doubt that the views she expresses, having risen through the ranks with Rush Limbaugh and Dennis Praeger, reflect where she sees her bread being buttered because her own rise reflects very different values indeed!

    There! That’s the sanitized version.

  3. It’s been several years since I’ve listened to Dr. Laura, but my impression was that her advice was sometimes valuable in that she was one of few people in our self-indulgent culture who preached the virtues of self-sacrifice. OTOH, I thought that she could be very unkind to callers and that she showed shockingly little compassion for people who were struggling with (largely self-inflicted) problems quite similar to some she had faced in her own life. On the whole, I didn’t like her or her show very much, and I stopped listening.

  4. “I have the feeling she gets a lot of calls from Utah.”

    Yeah, well she’s ultra-conservative, almost to wacko levels, so its not surprising that she gets a lot of Utah calls and lots from church members. Its similar to what happens with Fox’s Hannity (catholic) and the mormons who support him.

    As for Dr.Laura and her marriage/relationship advice, wow, didn’t she steal another woman’s husband? and was pregnant to him before they married? If so why do mormons support her so much? They never forgave Clinton for his sins but, oh, yeah, Dr Laura is ‘conservative’ and “preached the virtues of self-sacrifice” Doh! So she can say anything now since conservatives forgave her years ago. Like they forgave Bush’s DUI conviction or Reagan for his divorce etc…..

    But Obama? nah he’s still as still guilty as hell for that crazy Reverend in that Chicago church.

    re #3 🙂

  5. I don’t hold the nekkid pictures against her (seems a forgivable sin for the penitent), but I didn’t like her show.

    I haven’t heard it very much, but the two times the callers were clearly Mormon she gave very condescending advice (I realize that’s her schtick) and once even ridiculed the person’s religious perspective because they felt it contradicted her advice. I realize she quickly dumps people who say “but” (again, part of the schtick), but the ridicule seemed a bit gratuitous. Unfortunately, this was from several years ago and I can’t remember the particulars, so I’d always just assumed she disparaged Mormons. If she’s come around, maybe it’s because she’s determined Mormons are part of her market demographic.

    Also, I consider her advice that if you get divorced and have kids, you shouldn’t even consider dating again until the kids are grown to be unreasonable and possibly even damaging (and I’m a happily married never-divorced).

  6. However simplistic Dr. Laura may be, and however naked she got years ago, she has this one thing going for her: She recognizes that the notion that you can never “blame the victim” is in the top-ten list for Stupidest Concepts Ever, right up there with “to each according to his needs” and “real estate always goes up.”

    Life is hard. It’s harder if you’re stupid. Can’t be said enough.

  7. I just read the wikipedia article. I thought the nekkid pictures was the scandal. Wow.

    It’s absolutely unbelievable she’s gotten where she is, doing what she’s doing. That woman’s got gumption.

    Wow.

  8. Thomas,

    Everyone can agree with ‘not blame the victim’ line but…“to each according to his needs” isn’t that socialists thinking?

    and “real estate always goes up.” Hmmmmmmmm……..foreclosure to mind 🙂

  9. Pingback: Truth or Loyalty in Religion « Irresistible (Dis)Grace

  10. She may not be perfect, but overall her conservative, traditional, common sense messages are far better than most others on the airwaves. Although she is admittedly short with some people, it is an entertainment program after all, and she can’t spend 30 minutes of free counseling with everyone. If she has to cut them off after 60 seconds, that’s the nature of the medium, and obviously some people suffer from diarrhea of the mouth – you’d cut them off, too, in a real-life conversation. Let’s face it, not everyone that calls in is a genius… For the most part, however, she is respectful and helpful to most callers.

    I also like that she doesn’t take crap from people. That’s refreshing in an era of politically-correctness. Overall, I give her 2 thumbs up. Rock on, Dr. Laura! 🙂

  11. Dr. Laura kicked my butt once when I seriously needed it. Deeply and desperately needed it. It changed my life. I don’t give a flying fig who likes her or doesn’t — she’s done more for me than anybody in the bloggernacle. Feel quite free to not listen to her — I wish I could.

  12. “Also, I consider her advice that if you get divorced and have kids, you shouldn’t even consider dating again until the kids are grown to be unreasonable and possibly even damaging (and I’m a happily married never-divorced).”

    I’m also a never divorced individual, happily married with kids. I’m glad to see that others were equally turned off by this rather common position of the good Doctor. I think a great deal of what she say’s is useful, but for me this extreme position is the deal breaker for me. While I would agree that divorced parents have an obligation to be sensitive to the complexities of their childrens emotions, I’m not sure having them raised by an unecessarily depressed and overworked parent is any more ideal.

    1. Divorce hurts kids, remarriage hurts even more, sometimes physically and emotionally. She tells the truth and advises morals, which most people dont know exists.

  13. Kuri, that’s the part I can’t stand about her. She’s so condescending and impatient; and yet, she’s made so many bad choices that you’d think she’d have a little compassion. It’s not like she ever says, “I’ve made the mistake before, and don’t be like me.” No, she comes off as the all wise and all knowing. I don’t think she started out being so conservative but then she figured out that’s where the market was.

    He also knows that people love to look down on someone so that’s the way she sets up her show. Unless someone is a real victim, e.g. abused child, etc, whom she can console and thereby look compassionate, she usually treats her callers like they are idiots. I can’t figure out why people call her. It must be the same thing that motivated people to appear on Maury Povitch.

  14. One of my sisters gave us a copy of “The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands” after I got married, because she said that it had helped her. My wife and I read one chapter and skimmed a few other pages before deciding it was definitely not worth our time. If I were just the stereotypical “man’s man”, sure, the advice may have helped my wife cope. But for someone with a more modern egalitarian relationship, her views were a.) completely inapplicable, and b.) somewhat demeaning.

    We sold it online recently in an effort to clear off our shelves, and I sincerely hope it helps someone else in their marriage. But Dr. Laura’s idea of who men are and what marriage should be like is certainly different from my personal or gospel ideal.

  15. My mom gave me a copy of “The proper care and feeding of husbands.” It now resides under my bed, supporting a broken leg on my bed frame.

    I can’t stand Dr. Laura- she’s right up there with Neil Diamond for me. I’m sure she’s given plenty of great advice, but I don’t really like her condescending, impatient, often pompous approach. There is something to be said for someone who can give solid advice in a way that makes you fill uplifted rather than trampled on, but she seems to do more of the latter.

  16. Cliff,

    Kuri, that’s the part I can’t stand about her. She’s so condescending and impatient; and yet, she’s made so many bad choices that you’d think she’d have a little compassion. It’s not like she ever says, “I’ve made the mistake before, and don’t be like me.” No, she comes off as the all wise and all knowing.

    Exactly. I already thought thought she was condescending before I learned something about her history, but after I found out she’d made a lot of the same mistakes (and generally overcome them, good for her), I couldn’t believe the way she treated people who were making the same ones she had.

    Unless someone is a real victim, e.g. abused child, etc, whom she can console and thereby look compassionate, she usually treats her callers like they are idiots. I can’t figure out why people call her.

    I think narcissism is probably a big part of it. It seems to me that a lot of the people who go on shows like Dr. Laura, Dr. Phil, Judge Judy and so on fantasize that these “righteous authority figures” will be anxious to castigate the people around them. In their clueless self-centeredness, they’ve never realized that they’re a big — if not the biggest — part of the problem, and it comes as a complete shock when the doctor or the judge or whoever goes after them instead.

  17. I’ve been a Dr. Laura fan since like forever. She’s about my age so I relate to her. The distribution of advice I think is 90% good, 5% shaky and 5% bad. Not bad, all in all. I’ve also heard the number voice of Mormon’s the same way as the original author.

    Of all the important things in life I’ve gotten advice about, how to be a father, husband and friend are easily the place that I’ve gotten either the worst advice or no advice. Dr. Laura may have some advice that is hard to hear and she may be a bad vessel to dispense advice but on a regular basis where else would you go? After a while you see none of us have life all figured out and God blesses us with people like this to teach us about it.

  18. Post
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    I probably should have added that she generally has values and beliefs that are in line with what the Church teaches, namely,

    – chastity before marriage and complete fidelity after
    – having a common religion in the home
    – family comes first even after divorce
    – being honest with others
    – etc

    So that in itself is going to rub some folks, especially around here the wrong way. What is also interesting is how judgmental some folks can be about her past, while expecting others not to be judgmental of their choices.

    If Neil Diamond can write a song sung by Deep Purple, he’s OK in my book. I loved the Jazz Singer even though he’s a terrible actor.

  19. I think probably 80 percent of her advice is good, and certainly there’s a need for some people to be told what they need to be told instead of what they want to be told. But she’s also the most arrogant, presumptuous, judgmental host on radio today — and that’s saying quite a bit, since right-wing talk radio is full of such hosts. While she preaches some good values, she fails to show respect toward those less fortunate than she is, and that’s a value in itself, one not worthy of emulation. Basically, her shtick isn’t my idea of praiseworthy entertainment.

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    #20,

    “But she’s also the most arrogant, presumptuous, judgmental host on radio today”

    C’mon, she is at least tied with Rush Limbaugh in that department. Though, I think her politics suck.

  21. – chastity before marriage and complete fidelity after
    – having a common religion in the home
    – family comes first even after divorce
    – being honest with others
    – etc

    So that in itself is going to rub some folks, especially around here the wrong way.

    Yep. Because so many of us around here believe in adultery, selfishness, and dishonesty.

  22. # 19

    The values are solid. But when they’re administered with a sledge hammer by someone who takes no responsibility for the methods of implementation and expresses it with a to-heck-with-the-consequences attitude while evidencing a thoroughly hypocritical set of continuing life choices you’ve got to sit up and take note if you don’t approach life as a cardboard cutout with cookie cutter instructions.

    The mistakes she’s made are not limited to her youth. They continued into her adult life when she was living with 2 men married to other women at the time as late as when she announced her out-of-wedlock pregnancy at 38. And no one has mentioned her only son — whom she made a centerpiece of her identity for decades in her public and media life. His own life at least seems to put out it’s own flashing signals. There was an incident of ugly sado-masochistic public blog entries (that were wiped as soon as they came to wide attention) some years ago. They were followed by a military investigation. The investigation was completed but the results were never released. Most significantly Deryk Schlessinger was never cleared despite the influence we can guess Dr. Laura might have had and how much she might have wanted him to be exonerated.

    Hey, look! I’m not claiming that I am privy to a lot of details but some kinds of common sense wisdom and guidance come into play here like “what is the fruit of the tree” and “if it walks like a duck…” …and I’m saying those things matter even if it “sounds like a saint”.

  23. Post
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    #23,

    I didn’t know about her son’s problems but I did find it curious she stopped mentioning his deployment and the Who-rrah at the top of her show.

    I hear what you’re saying and I agree, she is definitely not a role model for her own advice, but most of us usually aren’t. Not excusing it. I try to take the advice at face value and some people need a sledge hammer approach sometimes.

    I am amazed at some people who call in and say they listen for years and then go on to relate something that you know she is going to lower the boom on them and they are obvious. And the other hand, sometimes she beats people up that clearly don’t deserve it.

    And I also assume that her conversion to Orthodox Judaism cleared up a number of those past issues in much the same fashion as a Baptism into our Church would do. Or at least recognition that they were wrong things to do.

    But your points are well taken.

  24. I used to listen to her almost daily. I picked up on the high volume of lds callers, too. She doles out some good advice, notably in her book “The proper care and feeding of husbands”. However, her black and white stances on many issues and her sarcastic tone eventually turned me off.

    I’d wager a guess her harsh judgment of others stems from her internal criticism of her own choices in life. When I was at my most judgmental, there was a lot of self-loathing going on (though I’d sure I’d never have admitted it at the time). When we don’t like our own demons (past or present), we tend to redirect our vitriol towards others.

  25. I can’t listen to more than a few minutes of her. She actually makes my stomach feel as if it twisted in knots. She is so harsh w/ people needing help (I feel you have to be dysfunctional, w/o friends/family/counselors or anyone to go to a talk show for help) and just belittles people. I find her offensive and judgmental.

  26. Taken solely as an entertainer in the mold of any other radio host, I don’t really have any problems with how (more problems with the actual content) she does her job. I’m sure occasionally she is really harsh AND it is needed, but sometimes it is over the top. I only listen to NPR now anyway, but in the past preferred her to the Beck/Hannity/Rush axis.

  27. Interesting post. Thanks, Jeff.

    What I like about Dr. Laura: You know where you stand. She seems to articulate a standard and then gives advice consistent with the articulated standard. As a result, there is a predictability there.

    Like others, I’m not so happy about the way she does not always seem to listen; it seems if the question does not come in an appropriate sound-bite, she struggles to have any patience to ferret out the real issue.

    I am regularly amazed (or was when I listened to the show; haven’t heard it for years now) that people call her with questions they do and are surprised by advice she gives. One only has to listen for a few days to predict how she will respond to most issues.

    I am surprised when she does take a softer tone with some callers, as if there is something in that call that triggers a gentler approach, precisely because it is so rare.

    As for the no-dating-if-you-have-younger-children — I’ve seen enough step families suffer terribly when her advice isn’t followed that it’s easy to see why she’d recommend it. Doesn’t mean it’s the same for everyone, I suppose, but the cases I’ve seen have been disastrous.

  28. Thanks for this post, Jeff. Interesting learning more about her. Many years ago, I would occasionally listen to her when driving. I used to enjoy that. Just recently, I caught her on the radio and I couldn’t believe it was the same person. Sharp, caustic, belittling. It’s entertainment now, not counseling.

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    #31,

    “It’s entertainment now, not counseling.”

    I think that’s true, but I think that it always was. That way, she is not really responsible for the aftermath. It used to be that she only allow a person to call her once. But now, I guess because of listener numbers, she encourages people to call back.

    Paul #30

    “I am regularly amazed (or was when I listened to the show; haven’t heard it for years now) that people call her with questions they do and are surprised by advice she gives.”

    Me too. That’s bizarre to me.

  30. The mistakes she’s made are not limited to her youth. They continued into her adult life when she was living with 2 men married to other women at the time as late as when she announced her out-of-wedlock pregnancy at 38

    yeap, that’s the problem with Dr.Laura. She has far too many skeletons in her own closet to be counseling others on relationships.

    Plus its not like she can claim that ‘Jesus saved me from my sins’ like Ted Haggard can.

  31. As for the no-dating-if-you-have-younger-children — I’ve seen enough step families suffer terribly when her advice isn’t followed that it’s easy to see why she’d recommend it. Doesn’t mean it’s the same for everyone, I suppose, but the cases I’ve seen have been disastrous.

    I’d agree here. See this in my ward too. There are simply too many conflicting issues to make it a happy fulfilling relationship when young kids and especially teenagers are still around. Seems to be the case in the majority of step families although I suppose somewhere there may be some successful ones but I haven’t seen any.

  32. #25 “I hear what you’re saying and I agree, she is definitely not a role model for her own advice, but most of us usually aren’t. Not excusing it. I try to take the advice at face value and some people need a sledge hammer approach sometimes.

    Admittedly, we are all trying to do our best. We try to succeed more than we fail. We try to forgive ourselves for our shortcomings and try harder. We try to encourage others to do the same and have the grace to allow them latitude to do that. Fair enough and, actually, pretty effective for keeping civilization going on.

    But trading in your deficiencies as a profession is a different matter altogether. We may be naive or too demanding to expect perfection or even near perfection from ourselves or others. But we are foolish if we employ a carpenter who can’t wield a hammer or a dentist with shaky hands or a law enforcement professional with a drug dependency. But any of us would be dishonest — yes, I think it’s dishonesty — to be offering our professional services and profiting from professional services that were that seriously compromised even if we could be successful at the appearance of not being so compromised. IF some area of our lives is that challenged, that’s what we work on and we choose our strongest expertise as a service to others. No?

    At least when someone, like Dr. Laura, is so demanding of others’ integrity according to her demands I think it’s only reasonable to think she should be held AND hold herself to the same standard of personal integrity in the area of the “expertise” she sells as a profession.

  33. The problem here, Alice, is that your argument depends on evidence that LS’s life is presently “challenged,” such as would call her competence to give advice, now — not when she was in her pre-Orthodox thirties, or whatever. Is there a statute of limitations on being an idiot? I sure hope so.

    Frankly, I love hypocrisy — because the only people who can’t be called hypocrites, are people who don’t bother having any principles to betray. Hypocrisy is a good sign that someone at least recognizes the existence of principles, and hasn’t just slouched at full speed into nihilism.

    And not infrequently, “hypocrisy” is the gleeful cry of people who desperately want to believe that living up to standards of decency is impossible (thus to excuse their failure to do so). They don’t just want to tear down the individual hypocrite; they want to tar everybody who defends moral principles with the hypocrite’s unattractiveness, as part of their urge to discredit those principles themselves. Thus Ted Haggard or Jimmy Swaggart are made to exemplify Christianity generally — as if that’s remotely logical.

  34. Thomas, I suspect you’re comfortable with her advice and style. Your right to choose where you draw influence! I have nothing else to say about that and I think I was able to make my point, such as it is.

  35. Alice, you suspect wrong. I think DS’s style is more abrasive than is useful. But that’s not your argument. It was that even that if her advice and style were valid, she’s somehow estopped from giving that advice because she acted irresponsibly earlier in her life. The message is more important than the messenger.

  36. After reading her biography on Wikipedia, I find myself less concerned with the possibility of hypocrisy in Dr. Laura’s position, and more discouraged by the misrepresentation on her program. About a year ago or longer, my wife and I were talking about the Dr. Laura program, and I remarked that sometime I get the impression that her letters or callers sound contrived. Largely because so many of them sound very, very similar in the way they present their case. According to the Wikipedia entry, on her television program which had a brief airing in 2000, she was caught interviewing fake guests. A member of her writing staff would go into wardrobe and create a character with fictional issues and then present themselves for advice on the program. Apparently they were exposed because this same staff member posed on multiple shows as a multiple of different characters. I too have wondered, like Jeff Spector and others, why a reasonable and more or less rational person would submit themselves to ridicule on her program. Now I am suspicious that perhaps a good number of the callers may be fake, and listeners are just being duped into a WWF format of entertainment counselling.

  37. I love Thomas’ explanation of hypocrites and suspect anything written in Wikipedia on any controversial public people. There are always stories that can be dredged up against them and then slanted to make them appear as bad as possible. Laura Bush for instance killed a boyfriend when she was 16, is a fact. But the facts were that she was in a car accident which killed the boy.

    Also my opinion of Dr. Laura’s show is like learning how drive by watching car accidents. I think the calls are real because the kind of calls can’t be contrived. The reality of the hostility to her advice can’t be faked.

    Or I could be wrong.

  38. I don’t think the calls need to be faked. There are enough troubled folks out there to fill the airwaves with dozens of shows just like this. And the calls are voluntary. No one has to get slammed by her unless, they either want to, haven’t listened to her enough or, think like many people, what they are doing is OK. But, if they thought the latter, then why call up at all?????

  39. or, think like many people, what they are doing is OK. But, if they thought the latter, then why call up at all?????

    A lot of people — in many settings — claim they want advice, but what they really want is validation. (And boy do they get mad when people actually give them advice instead of validation.)

  40. #42,

    “A lot of people — in many settings — claim they want advice, but what they really want is validation. (And boy do they get mad when people actually give them advice instead of validation.)”

    Boy, ain’t that the truth. I learned a long time ago that no one really takes it advice unless they have internalized it as a good idea and then, it becomes their own. Not many would just do something because someone else thinks its a good idea.

  41. Call heard on Dr. Laura yesterday while I was going to the gym. A pretty typical call.

    Caller: Hello Dr. Laura thanks for taking my call. My husband and I have been attending the same Church since we were married 26 years ago. But, I have stopped going
    for the last year. (Could it be?)

    Dr. Laura: Why did you stop going to Church?

    Caller: Well, I am not sure if it was because of hormones (exact quote!) or because I was afraid of being judged? ( hummmmmm…..)

    Dr. Laura: Judged? Judged for what?

    Caller: Well, my daughters, who are older and been out of the house for some time.
    Dr. Laura: What about your daughters?

    Caller: Well, in our church, we are taught to marry in the Temple (Bingo!) And my younger daughter was married civilly. And my older daughter doesn’t even go to church
    anymore.

    Dr. Laura: Everyone has their own faith journey and has to decide for themselves about religious practice and observance. So, what your daughters choose to do should
    have no bearing on what you do with your faith and journey. Do you like the Church you go to?

    Caller: Yes

    Dr. Laura: Well then, go back to Church.

    Caller: OK, Dr. Laura, I will. Thanks for your help.

    Typical church call.

  42. Wow. For once, I seem to agree with Dr. Laura.

    Fear of being judged is a powerful force that holds back many people from doing what they think is right and will make them happy.

  43. I thought it was funny only because if everyone over-worried about how their children’s conduct would reflect on them, the Church would basically be empty on Sunday. I’ve heard it used as a excuse that a family doesn’t attend Church because their kids aren’t well-behaved. Really? and whose are all the time.

    Gees, my youngest son flipped the bird during the Primary Program while standing in front and singing. It was funny and many folks were laughing. My wife wanted to crawl under the pew.

  44. Hee hee. My youngest son went up with the rest of the Nursery kids to sing “Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam.” The children were adorable, and sang cheerfully away — all except Youngest, who stood there glowering. “Jesus Wants Me For A Stormcloud.”

  45. Yeah, I was grabbed by another mother telling me to do something about my youngest son…apparently some kids were talking about marriage, and my son turned the discussion into talking about sex…after all, people have sex after they’re married. Then, of course, all the kids were saying sex (not understanding the topic but happy to use the words introduced by my son).

    I can’t say he was wrong…but we did have a lesson from dad on appropriate times and places to talk about things.

    I also chuckle that people LOVE to reference all the prophets in the scriptures that had problem kids…”Thank goodness Lehi had Laman and Lemuel…it makes me feel a little better about myself” 😉

  46. “I also chuckle that people LOVE to reference all the prophets in the scriptures that had problem kids…”Thank goodness Lehi had Laman and Lemuel…it makes me feel a little better about myself” 😉 ”

    Love that!. Of course, it is a good thing that Adam had Abel, almost everything from there was an improvement!!!!! :0)

  47. When my wife and I were team teaching Primary a few years ago, she was holding our oldest son on her lap (he was an infant). She reached over to pick something up and accidentally dropped him, and I accidentally dropped a swear word (S_it!) in front of all the little kids.

  48. Cowboy..that is funny.

    Did the bishop get any calls from parents who asked their kids, “So, Johnny, did you learn any new words primary today?”

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