The Culture of Education / Edition 2

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Review of Books

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

Journal of the Learning Sciences

[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.
— Michael Cole and Margaret Gallego

The American School Board Journal

[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.
— Theodore R. Sizer

Nature

As in everything Bruner writes...there is the stamp of imaginative energy, an exceptional breadth of reading and subtle thought.
— Liam Hudson

British Journal of Educational Psychology

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.
— Charles DesForges

Culture
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.
— Donald J. Cunningham and Heather Sugioka
Booklist

Among readers serious about educational philosophy, Bruner's study will earn high praise.
— Bryce Christensen

New York Review of Books - Clifford Geertz
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.
Journal of the Learning Sciences - Michael Cole And Margaret Gallego
[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.
The American School Board Journal - Theodore R. Sizer
[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.
Nature - Liam Hudson
As in everything Bruner writes...there is the stamp of imaginative energy, an exceptional breadth of reading and subtle thought.
British Journal of Educational Psychology - Charles Desforges
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.
Culture, Education, and Semiotics - Donald J. Cunningham And Heather Sugioka
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.
Booklist - Bryce Christensen
Among readers serious about educational philosophy, Bruner's study will earn high praise.
Kirkus Reviews
This original consideration of the link between education and culture lives up to the Bruner standard of insightful, provocative, and essentially hopeful discourse.

Bruner (Actual Mind, Possible Worlds, 1986, etc.), the doyen of cognitive psychology, has two ends in mind in this volume of essays: One concerns education in the narrow sense, and possible remedies for its current plight. The second addresses the larger theme of how we as individuals come to identify ourselves in a particular culture, a process that leads Bruner to the interesting conclusion that the future of psychology lies in a marriage to anthropology. As always, Bruner argues that learning is situated in a context, which for human beings involves the shared symbols of a community, its traditions and toolkit, passed on from generation to generation and constituting the larger culture. Bruner traces the evolution of the study of mind from schools of psychology and philosophy that have variously emphasized mind as information processor, mind as instrumental actor, mind as brain evolved from primate/hominid biology, and mind as a developing organ. How we construe mind influences pedagogy, from the concept that sees information flowing from teacher to fill the (passive) brains of the young to the cultural-psychological perspective Bruner now espouses. 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.

No doubt this will elicit "yes, but's" and "no way" from assorted academic fiefdoms, but the general reader may well find this an exhilarating notion well supported by this wonderfully argued work.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674179530
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/1997
  • Edition description: Second Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 757,694
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet 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).
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Table of Contents

Preface

Culture, Mind, and Education

Folk Pedagogy

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

Notes

Credits

Index

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  • Posted April 9, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    In Some Cases, It's the Culture of Miseducation

    In determining what we believe to be the most effective or quality musical and educational settings for children, researchers and educators may be too zealous. When Bruner (1996) stated that "you cannot teacher-proof a curriculum any more that you can parent-proof a family" (84), he was alluding to this obsession with having an expedient education. Especially in the case of the Head Start vignette, it is clear that music educators also address musical deprivation; our much more enticing labels include Early Childhood Music, Kindermusik, and Musikgarten. The explicit messages presented in these curricula are the instruction of the whole child for later transfer through music and the inclusiveness of parents and family in the music making process; if a teacher maintains these ideals, then the families that receive the instruction will flourish as a result.

    The implicit concerns, however, are that all families can afford this private education, the best possible instruction will emanate from the licensed teachers, and the cultural values of all families are the same, regardless of race, class, and socioeconomic status. The music education that the children are receiving comes with the "failure to equip minds with the skills for understanding and feeling and acting in the cultural world . . . risks creating alienation, de?ance, and practical incompetence. And all of these undermine the viability of a culture" (Bruner, 1996. 42-3). The result, then, is that no culture at all is being taught or preserved, and musical culture as an entity is not experiencing propagation of any kind.

    Close readings of this text are eye-opening and insightful about what is happening in the classroom as well as the cultures that surround it and permeate it. Regardless of
    what ages of students we teach, we need to continually educate ourselves to provide
    the least biased and most comprehensive music program possible; our consciousness has an obligatory equity to our musicianship and scholarship. Bruner is able to communicate these messages (as well as many others) well.

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