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On the Pedagogy of Suffering

Hermeneutic and Buddhist Meditations


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 Twenty-Four: “Isn’t All Oncology Hermeneutic?”



“Isn’t All Oncology Hermeneutic?”


The impetus for this paper arose during an Alberta Children’s Hospital pediatric oncology research day in November 2012 in Calgary, Alberta, where dedicated researchers presented the work they were currently conducting in efforts to cure, treat, and make sense of childhood cancer. Most of the research presented was that of bench and natural science, understanding the progression of tumours, the impact of radiation on mice, randomized control trials, or evidence of the potential of a new chemotherapeutic agent. Dr. Nancy Moules, Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation and Research Institute Nursing Professorship in Child and Family Centred Cancer Care, presented her research on understanding the impact of childhood cancer on lives and relationships, and her research approach of hermeneutics. In this context with this audience, it is a shared understanding that there is a very human experience of cancer and an appreciation that bench science offers one way of knowing that must be translated into another kind of knowing that is handled in the day-to-day practical decisions, judgments about, and interactions with those undergoing such experiences. Cancer is readily understood as an affliction that can affect all aspects of a person’s life, a phenomenon replete with complex and often contradictory cultural, historical, and personal/familial understandings, assumptions, hopes, fears, and expectations. There exists a whole world of lived experience that precedes bench science and provides it with the contexts of...

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