Philosophical and Psychological
Foundations of Education
QUOTATIONS BY PHILOSOPHER
 

JEROME BRUNER

Jerome Bruner  

My Educational Philosophy
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Excerpts from The Culture of Education

Chapter 1: Culture, Mind, and Education

Knowing and communicating are in their nature highly interdependent, indeed virtually inseparable. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 3


Learning and thinking are always situated in a cultural setting and always dependent upon the utilization of cultural resources. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 4


For the meaning making of the culturalist, unlike the information processing of the computationalist, is in principle interpretive, fraught with ambiguity, sensitive to the occasion, and often after the fact. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 6


Old wine does not improve much for being poured into differently shaped bottles, even if the glass is clearer. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 9


Understanding something in one way does not preclude understanding it in other ways. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 13


Life in culture is, then, an interplay between the versions of the world that people form under its institutional sway and the versions of it that are products of their individual histories. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 14


An educational enterprise that fails to take the risks involved becomes stagnant and eventually alienating. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 15


We cannot, even given our most imaginative efforts, construct a concept of Self that does not impute some causal influence of prior mental states on later ones. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 15


We need to conceive of ourselves as "agents" impelled by self-generated intentions. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 16


"Thinking about thinking" has to be a principal ingredient of any empowering practice of education. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 19


It is principally through interacting with others that children find out what the culture is about and how it conceives of the world. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 20


In most matters of achieving mastery, we also want learners to gain good judgment, to become self-reliant, to work well with each other. And such competencies do not flourish under a one-way "transmission" regimen. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 21


Scientia dependit in mores.


Knowledge helps only when it descends into habits. ~ Jerome Bruner,The Culture of Education, p. 23, p. 152


We carry with us habits of thought and taste fostered in some nearly forgotten classroom by a certain teacher. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 24


Education is never neutral, never without social and economic consequences. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 25


Education does not stand alone, and it cannot be designed as if it did. It exists in a culture. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 28


However thoughtful our educational plans may become, they must include a crucial place for teachers. For ultimately, that is where the action is. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 35


Selfhood . . . derives from the sense that one can initiate and carry out activities on one's own. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 35


Any system of education, any theory of pedagogy, any "grand national policy" that diminishes the school's role in nurturing its pupils' self-esteem fails at one of its primary functions. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 38


If . . . school is an entry into the culture and not just a preparation for it, then we must constantly reassess what school does to the young student's conception of his own power (his sense of agency) and his sensed chances of being able to cope with the world both in school and after (his self-esteem). ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 39


We have become so preoccupied with the more formal criteria of "performance" and with the bureaucratic demands of education as an institution that we have neglected this personal side of education. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 39


It seems evident, then, that skill in narrative construction and narrative understanding is crucial to constructing our lives and a "place" for ourselves in the possible world we will encounter. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 40


Finding a place in the world, for all it implicates the immediacy of home, mate, job, and friends, is ultimately an act of imagination. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 40


A system of education must help those growing up in a culture find an identity within that culture. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 42


Education is risky, for it fuels the sense of possibility. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 42


Chapter 2: Folk Pedagogy

Thoughtful people have been forever troubled by the enigma of applying theoretical knowledge to practical problems. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 44


Keep before you a busy classroom of nine-year-olds, say, with a hard-working teacher, and ask what kind of theoretical knowledge would help them. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 45


Our interactions with others are deeply affected by our everyday intuitive theories about how other minds work. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 45


In theorizing about the practice of education in the classroom (or any other setting, for that matter), you had better take into account the folk theories that those engaged in teaching and learning already have. For any innovations that you, as a "proper" pedagogical theorist, may wish to introduce will have to compete with, replace, or otherwise modify the folk theories that already guide both teachers and pupils. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 46


Beliefs and assumptions about teaching, whether in a school or in any other context, are a direct reflection of the beliefs and assumptions the teacher holds about the learner. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, pp. 46-47


Stated boldly, the emerging thesis is that educational practices in classrooms are premised on a set of folk beliefs about learners' minds, some of which may have worked advertently toward or inadvertently against the child's own welfare. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, pp. 49-50


Studies of expertise demonstrate that just learning how to perform skillfully does not get one to the same level of flexible skill as when one learns by a combination of practice and conceptual explanation—much as a really skillful pianist needs more than clever hands, but needs as well to know something about the theory of harmony, about solfège, about melodic structure. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 54


Knowledge, after all, is justified belief. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 59


There is something special about "talking" to authors, now dead but still alive in their ancient texts—so long as the objective of the encounter is not worship but discourse and interpretation, "going meta" on thoughts about the past. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 62


Chapter 3: The Complexity of Educational Aims

We need to realize human potential, but we need to maintain a culture's integrity and stability. We need to recognize differing native talent, but we need to equip all with the tools of the culture. We need to respect the uniqueness of local identities and experience, but we cannot stay together if the cost of local identity is a cultural Tower of Babel. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, pp. 69-70


[Teachers] are the ultimate change agents. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 84


Chapter 4: Teaching the Present, Past, and Possible

Narrative meanings . . . depend in only a trivial way on truth in the strict sense of verifiability. The requirement, rather, is verisimilitude or "truth likeness," and that is a compound of coherence and pragmatic utility, neither of which can be rigidly specified. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 90

[Using the elements of truth I spun a little tale. ~ Collected Stories]


Some narratives about "what happened" are simply righter, not just because they are better rooted in factuality, but also because they are better contextualized, rhetorically more "fair-minded," and so on. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 91


History never simply happens: it is constructed by historians. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 91


What is sacred is that any well-wrought, well-argued, scrupulously documented, perspectivally honest construal of the past, the present, or the possible deserves respect. We all appreciate that, nevertheless, we must decide between competing accounts, competing narratives. That is political and social reality. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 92


Some theoretical efforts in the social sciences, indeed, are enriched by, even elucidated by responsible narratives. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 92


The agentive mind is not only active in nature, but it seeks out dialogue and discourse with other active minds. And it is through this dialogic, discursive process that we come to know the Other and his points of view, his stories. We learn an enormous amount not only about the world but about ourselves by discourse with Others. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 93


Kids are tougher critics than teachers. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 94


We simply do not know, nor will we ever, whether we learn about narrative from life or life from narrative: probably both. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 94


The objective of skilled agency and collaboration in the study of the human condition is to achieve not unanimity, but more consciousness. And more consciousness always implies more diversity. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 97


Chapter 5: Understanding and Explaining Other Minds

Our explanation will not exhaust the interpretive possibilities. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 113


Chapter 6: Narratives of Science

Getting to know something is an adventure in how to account for a great many things that you encounter in as simple and elegant a way as possible. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 115


We forget at our peril that the great advances in Eastern Europe were led not so much by mathematicians and scientists (although they were there too) but by playwrights, poets, philosophers, and even music teachers. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 117


Any domain of knowledge can be constructed at varying levels of abstractness or complexity. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 119


As a teacher, you do not wait for readiness to happen; you foster or "scaffold" it by deepening the child's powers at the stage where you find him or her now. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 120


It is very likely the case that the most natural and the earliest way in which we organize our experience and our knowledge is in terms of the narrative form. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 121


Narrative is discourse, and the prime rule of discourse is that there be a reason for it that distinguishes it from silence. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 121


Let me propose that we characteristically convert our efforts at scientific understanding into the form of narratives or, say, "narrative heuristics." ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 125


The art of raising challenging questions is easily as important as the art of giving clear answers. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 127


One of the great triumphs of learning (and of teaching) is to get things organized in your head in a way that permits you to know more than you "ought" to. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 129


Chapter 7: The Narrative Construal of Reality

Agency presupposes choice. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 136


Intentional states do not "cause" things. For what causes something cannot be morally responsible for it: responsibility implies choice. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 137


When a story captures our interest, we cannot resist the temptation to make its parts do so. That is what creates narrative's hermeneutic compulsion. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 137


While the creator of narrative realities links us to received conventions, he gains extraordinary cultural power by making us consider afresh what before we took for granted. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 140


Stories pivot on breached norms. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 142


Confrontation is a strong but risky medicine for unawareness. . . . Even so, there are privileged forms of confrontation—in intimate friendship as well as in psychoanalysis—where prise de conscience is the objective of the whole exercise. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 148


Chapter 8: Knowing as Doing

What seems most obvious psychologically may obscure some of life's most important secrets. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 151


Chapter 9: Psychology's Next Chapter

A culture's folk theories about the nature of human nature inevitably shape how that culture administers justice, educates its young, helps the needy, and even conducts its interpersonal relationships—all matters of deep consequence. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 162


In the end, while mind creates culture, culture creates mind. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 166


Just as you cannot fully understand human action without taking account of its biological evolutionary roots and, at the same time, understanding how it is construed in the meaning making of the actors involved in it, so you cannot understand it fully without knowing how and where it is situated. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 167


It is practically impossible to understand a thought, an act, a move of any sort from the situation in which it occurs. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 167


If psychology is to get ahead in understanding human nature and the human condition, it must learn to understand the subtle interplay of biology and culture. ~ Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 184


 

 

 
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