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On the Pedagogy of Suffering

Hermeneutic and Buddhist Meditations


Edited By David W. Jardine, Christopher Gilham and Graham McCaffrey

This text articulates how and why suffering can be pedagogical in character and how it is often key to authentic and meaningful acts of teaching and learning. This is an ancient idea from the Greek tragedies of Aeschylus (c. 525 BCE) – pathei mathos or «learning through suffering». In our understandable rush to ameliorate suffering at every turn and to consider every instance of it as an error to be avoided at all costs, we explore how the pedagogy that can come from suffering becomes obscured and something vital to a rich and vibrant pedagogy can be lost. This collection threads through education, nursing, psychiatry, ecology, and medicine, through scholarship and intimate breaths, and blends together affinities between hermeneutic conceptions of the cultivation of character and Buddhist meditations on suffering and its locale in our lives. This book will be useful for graduate courses on hermeneutic research in education, educational psychology, counseling, and nursing/medicine.


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Chapter Three: From the “Science of Disease” to the “Understanding of Those Who Suffer”: The Cultivation of an Interpretive Understanding of “Behaviour Problems” in Children (Christopher Gilham)


From The “Science of Disease” To The “Under- standing of Those Who Suffer”: The Cultivation of an Interpretive Under- standing of “Behaviour Problems” in Children christopher gilham The concern with things which are not understood, the attempt to grasp the unpre- dictable character of the spiritual and mental life of human beings, is the task of the art of understanding which we call hermeneutics. (Gadamer, 1996, p. 165) Hans-Georg Gadamer (1900–2002) described hermeneutics as an emancipatory and practical philosophy (1977, p. 17). As a former consultant for “Emotion- al and Behavioural Disabilities” (EBD) in a large urban public school board, I worked with school teams to support their work with “behaviour” students. While a Faculty of Education PhD candidate specializing in interpretive work, my understanding of “behaviour” students profoundly changed. This emanci- patory transformation, at the risk of over-simplifying, was largely the result of understanding some of the history of the Special Education work in which I had been immersed. In this paper, I attempt to unpack some of the history and current framing of this discourse in schools. Furthermore, I problematize this history as “iatrogenic” (1975, p. 14) and “counterproductive” (pp. 212–214) in the sense articulated by C h a p T e r T h r e e 30 | christopher gilham Ivan Illich (1926–2002). Through this interruption, I hope to offer an emancipat- ing or generous understanding of difficult students in classrooms. a C e n T r a l a n d i l...

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