American public education has undergone many reforms. Reform is expected from a young nation seeking its place among the nations of the world. But America is no longer a young nation. It is a mature leader among nations. Thus, it must boast institutions befitting its maturity as well as its leadership.
The emergence of charter schools and the impetus of many to home school underscore a belief of some that American public education lacks the swagger of a leader in education. Jerome S. Bruner, an American social psychologist who made significant contributions in education and cognition, promulgated ideas that are increasingly being heard in discussions of educational reform. His ideas give posture to our public education system that is commensurate with our nation’s leadership status.
Bruner’s 1960 views are:
1. “… children are active problem-solvers ready to explore ‘difficult’ subjects …” Upon the publication of this view, this view was not the dominant American educational view.
2. Cognitive growth suggests intellectual ability develops through step-by-step changes in how the mind is used.
3. Structure is the key to the delivery of education. Through it, earlier learning renders later learning easier.
4. Subjects can be taught in some intellectual form to all age groups at any stage of development. This is spiral education.
5. The ideal motivation for learning should be from the learner.
As the discussions on school reform spreads, we have:
a. An increasing number of school districts reviewing and adopting the Singapore math strategy. Their district agents cite the need for a delivery system of mathematics that makes later learning easier; Bruner’s third view.
b. The story of Mike Lee, a young black high school dropout who redefined and transformed himself in an inner city computer clubhouse for youth. The computer clubhouse was sponsored by the Boston Museum of Science and the MIT Media Lab.  Stories of self-transformations from low interest in school to a productive life are now prevalent among students who are “turned loose” to explore with technology; Bruner’s fifth view. These self-transformations come hand-in-hand with the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th views of Bruner.
c. The successes of Zuckerman of Facebook, Jobs of Apple Computer, and Foster of Federal Express demonstrate personal creativity drives creators to grow their ideas, thereby making them participants in their education process and making them become life learners – additional examples of Bruner’s fifth view.
The lesson experience has taught public education. Namely to successfully teach a diverse student population, teachers must master many instruction strategies. See Bruner’s 2nd, 3rd and 4th views.
Teaching strategies and student participation
Bruner’s work in cognition and curriculum kindled many teaching strategies. One such strategy develops thinking skills. I give the highest marks on my scorecard to this strategy because it emphasizes student participation. A learner who is actively participating in the acquisition of his education builds successes that are necessary to become a life learner. These are the learners who will keep our nation politically strong, scientifically leading and socially responsible. Adopting principles that yield the largest ratio of students that become life learners are our only option to remain a leader of nations.
America is a culturally diverse nation. Teaching methods must address this reality. Instruction strategies that fail to include the learner’s culture, fails to guarantee a return in human resources that maintains America as a leader nation. Jerome Bruner’s revisited his 1960 ideas to include the effects of culture in the learning process. If America wishes a public educational system befitting a leader nation, school districts with a diverse student population must build their educational philosophies on principles that maximize educational benefit for a diverse society.
If your school district is focusing on tweaking the old ways, I offer the ideas of Jerome Bruner.
Rethinking Learning in the Digital Age M. Resnick mres-wef.pdf from http://llk.media.mit.edu
Bruce Joyce and Marion Weil, MODLES OF TEACHING THIRD EDITION, Allyn and Bacon 1972.