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by Jerome Bruner

Pub Date: May 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-674-17952-8
Publisher: Harvard Univ.

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.