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The Culture of Education

The Culture of Education

Jerome Bruner

ISBN 9780674179530

Publication date: 04/25/1997

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.


  • 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, New York Review of Books


  • Jerome Bruner was University Professor at New York University.

Book Details

  • 240 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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