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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 Seventeen: Smart Ass Cripple (W. John Williamson)


Smart Ass Cripple w. john williamson What a man [sic] has to learn through suffering is not this or that particular thing, but insight into the limitations of humanity, into the absoluteness of the barrier that separates man from the divine. It is ultimately a religious insight—the kind of insight that gave birth to Greek tragedy. Thus experience is experience of human finitude. The truly experienced person is one who has taken this to heart. (Hans Georg Ga- damer, 1989, p. 357) Words like ‘suffering’ and ‘afflicted with’ are demeaning. People who live with Down syndrome lead fulfilling lives; many people with Down syndrome attend college or university, work and get married. (Canadian Down Syndrome Society, 2013, para 1) Expressing pain and sarcasm since 2010. (Smart Ass Cripple, n.d.) T h e p r o b l e m w i T h “ s u f f e r s f r o m ” How should we talk about suffering as it relates to disability? Even as it remains in frequent use in media and by the medical community, the phrase “suffers from” in relation to physical or mental impairments (e.g., suffers from dyslexia) has been widely criticized as patronizing and demeaning (Snow, 2009; Titchkosky, 2001). Criticism of the use of “suffers from” is often made from the perspective that the C h a p T e r s e v e n T e e n 124 | w. john williamson only appropriate way to discuss disability is with...

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