On Sunday, June 5, renowned psychologist Jerome S. Bruner passed away at the age of 100. An influential thinker throughout his 70-year career, Bruner’s scholarship spanned the realms of education, child development, perception, and problem solving and has had an influence on generations of others across the social sciences.
Howard Gardner’s own work in the areas of intelligence and cognition was greatly impacted by that of Bruner. “He invaded and created new areas of psychology and the social sciences at the speed other people wrote papers,” Gardner noted. “He was part of a generation of intellectual giants who roamed across the disciplinary terrain. Bruner and his colleagues gave us a language to see how we make sense of the world.”
“The most important lesson we educators learned from ‘Jerry’ is that if you take students of any age seriously, and engage their curiosity and their passions, you can communicate important ideas to them,” Gardner continued. “And the idea of the spiral curriculum — where you can over time revisit basic ideas/concepts in ever more complex ways — is so different from today, where we try to simplify things to lists, or memorization of isolated names and numbers, or multiple choice options, thereby deadening rather than waking up the mind.”
Bruner’s obituary announcements can be found in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe. You can also read a piece in memoriam via Cathy Rubin’s website CMRubinWorld and another via ASCD’s “In Service.”
UPDATE: Brazilian journal Revista Educação also released a tribute to Bruner. Click here to read their piece “Remembering Jerome Bruner,” which draws on Gardner’s reflections.
UPDATE #2: Innovations, the periodical of the North American Reggio Emilia Alliance, has published a remembrance of Bruner in their September 2016 issue, including a reflection from Howard Gardner. Click here to read Gardner’s piece.