Synopses & Reviews
What we don't know about learning could fill a book--and it might be a schoolbook. In a masterly commentary on the possibilities of education, the eminent psychologist Jerome Bruner reveals how education can usher children into their culture, though it often fails to do so. Applying the newly emerging "cultural psychology" to education, Bruner proposes that the mind reaches its full potential only through participation in the culture--not just its more formal arts and sciences, but its ways of perceiving, thinking, feeling, and carrying out discourse. By examining both educational practice and educational theory, Bruner explores new and rich ways of approaching many of the classical problems that perplex educators.
Education, Bruner reminds us, cannot be reduced to mere information processing, sorting knowledge into categories. Its objective is to help learners construct meanings, not simply to manage information. Meaning making requires an understanding of the ways of one's culture--whether the subject in question is social studies, literature, or science. The Culture of Education makes a forceful case for the importance of narrative as an instrument of meaning making. An embodiment of culture, narrative permits us to understand the present, the past, and the humanly possible in a uniquely human way.
Going well beyond his earlier acclaimed books on education, Bruner looks past the issue of achieving individual competence to the question of how education equips individuals to participate in the culture on which life and livelihood depend. Educators, psychologists, and students of mind and culture will find in this volume an unsettling criticism that challenges our current conventional practices--as well as a wise vision that charts a direction for the future.
[This is] an exceedingly important book for those of us who are responsible for schools. We all must read The Culture of Education and ponder its message...Bruner asks once again the big questions that lie behind human learning and thus formal schooling...Most important, Bruner's careful and often elegant arguments gently persuade us that some of the most deeply rooted contemporary ideas about schooling, and the policies and practices that flow from them, are as obsolete and wrong-headed as they are well-intentioned. Michael Cole and Margaret Gallego - Journal of the Learning Sciences
In a breathless, lurching, yet somehow deeply consecutive career spanning nearly sixty years, Bruner has brushed against almost every line of thought in psychology and transformed a number of them...[This book] is dedicated to tracing out the implications of [the] view of narrative as "both a mode of thought and an expression of a culture's world view." There are inquiries into the teaching of science, into "folk pedagogy," into the collaborative nature of learning, and into the child's construction of "a theory of mind" to explain and understand other minds. Autism as the inability to develop such a theory, the formal features of narrative, culture as praxis, and the approaches to education of Vygotsky, Piaget, and Pierre Bourdieu, related to Bruner's but in some tension with it, are all discussed. So are recent developments in primatology, cross-cultural studies of education, IQ testing, the role of the teacher, "metacognition" ("thinking about one's thinking"), relativism, and the uses of neurology...[C]ultural psychology [is] evolving rapidly...At the climax of what is surely one of the most extraordinary and productive careers in the human sciences, a career of continuous originality and tireless exploration, Jerome Bruner may have produced a more revolutionary revolution than even he altogether appreciates. Clifford Geertz
[A] multi-disciplinary examination of the foundations of thought and human action...Bruner casts his nets widely, drawing on concepts and empirical examples from a broad variety of academic sources ranging from philosophy, rhetoric, and literature to paleontology and primatology. New York Review of Books
As in everything Bruner writes...there is the stamp of imaginative energy, an exceptional breadth of reading and subtle thought. Theodore R. Sizer - The American School Board Journal
This is an enormously important book. It is a book of essays about education in which curriculum and standards and testing hardly get a mention although the issue of standards of conduct of professional educators is implicit throughout. It is a book which, if properly appreciated, would prepare the minds of educators at all levels to meet the challenge facing education now and over the next decades. The text is elegantly written and yet there is an almost desperate sense of urgency in the power of the arguments. It is a-political in a party sense whilst recognising that education is necessarily a political issue. It deals with profoundly complex matters in a clear and forthright way as one would expect of the author. It is free of rhetorical devices save the stridency of the arguments themselves...The book brings together, in coherent form, a vast collection of powerful ideas from a range of fields and brings them to bear on the challenge of education at all levels. It is a tour de force...a masterly foundation for those who have the courage to adopt a cultural approach to education. Liam Hudson - Nature
Bruner is a legendary figure in psychology and education...[He] has been the embodiment of all that is right about the academic future, anticipating the field and laying the groundwork for those who followed...[Here] Bruner is once again leading the way to the reunification of mind, culture, and semiosis. We hope that the field is wise enough to follow. Charles DesForges - British Journal of Educational Psychology
This original consideration of the link between education and culture lives up to the Bruner standard of insightful, provocative, and essentially hopeful discourse...In a long first essay he outlines a series of tenets, ranging from the need to foster self-esteem in children to the importance of the narrative mode by which children come to recognize themselves and find a place in the culture. The essays that follow enlarge on these themes with telling commentary on contemporary society. The last chapter spells out why Bruner feels that if psychology is to better understand human nature and the human condition it must master the interplay between biology and culture...The general reader will find this an exhilarating notion well supported by this wonderfully argued work. Donald J. Cunningham and Heather Sugioka - Culture, Education, and Semiotics
Among readers serious about educational philosophy, Bruner's study will earn high praise. Kirkus Reviews
In a masterly commentary on the possibilities of education, the eminent psychologist Jerome Bruner reveals how education can usher children into their culture, though it often fails to do so. Applying the newly emerging "cultrual psychology" to education, Bruner proposes that the mind reaches it full potential only through participation in the culture--not just its formal arts and sciences, but its ways of perceiving, thinking, feeling, and carrying out discourse.
1997 Eleanor B. Maccoby Book Award, American Psychological Association
About the Author
Jerome Bruner is University Professor at New York University and the author of many books, including Acts of Meaning; On Knowing; The Process of Education; and Toward a Theory of Instruction (all published by Harvard).
New York University
Table of Contents
Culture, Mind, and Education
The Complexity of Educational Aims
Teaching the Present, Past, and Possible
Understanding and Explaining Other Minds
Narratives of Science
The Narrative Construal of Reality
Knowing as Doing
Psychology's Next Chapter