Jerome Bruner on Understanding and Interpretation

I. “Understanding unlike explaining, is not preemptive; for example, one way of construing the fall of Rome narratively does not rule out other interpretations. For narratives and their interpretations traffic in meaning, and meanings are intransigently multiple…. Since no one narrative construal rules out alternatives, narratives pose a very special issue of criteria.”

II. “In a word, narrative accounts can be principled or not but do not rest on stark verification alone, as with scientific explanations. Any constitutional lawyer worth his salt can tell you how Justice Taney’s way of construing history in the Dred Scott decision was excruciatingly tunnel-visioned, unmindful of competing perspective, and therefore lethal in its consequences.”

Jerome Bruner

The Culture of Education

Excerpted from: Wiggins, Grant, and Jay McTighe. Understanding by Design. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 1998.

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