From the "Science of Disease" to the "Understanding of Those Who Suffer": The Cultivation of an Interpretive Understanding of "Behaviour Problems" in Children

  • Christopher Matthew Gilham University of Calgary
Keywords: interpretive, hermeneutics, education, behaviour, special education, philosophy


In this interpretive essay, I attempt to unconceal the problematic history at play in Special Education in Alberta today, with a focus on “behaviour students†or their norm-referenced disability status. A brief, but central, anecdote is used to help reveal some of the everyday problems that arise in education because of the behavioural disability framing of students. I suggest that these problems are examples of Illich’s appropriated notions of iatrogenesis and counterproductivity. As an applied emancipatory action, I call upon Gadamer and Ricoeur to help me interpretively turn the common, everyday understanding of pathology and self in the context of others as possibilities for understanding “behaviour students†anew.


behaviour, coding, dignity, disorder, iatrogenesis, self-esteem, special education


Author Biography

Christopher Matthew Gilham, University of Calgary

PhD candidate

Interpretive Studies, GDER

University of Calgary


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