As an undergraduate at Rice, Bruce enrolled in the Humanities 100 course taught by Radoslav Tsanoff. That course, along with others, opened new doors for his understanding of philosophy, which he had been studying entirely on his own.
His dissertation adviser was Norman Martin, a philosophical logician. Throughout his career, he has been been drawn to systems of thought, ideas that challenge those systems, formal logic and linguistics, and in general, philosophical modes of thinking, relating to even the most ordinary practices.
At the same time, in the pragmatist tradition of C. S. Peirce and William James, he has been uneasy with reductionist assumptions, especially when those are deemed sufficient for understanding nature, human behavior, or social relations.
Accordingly, he often found himself restless with abstractions that ignore concrete realities but equally with efforts to address practical concerns that fail to question their ground assumptions.
Once he was invited to a literacy conference to speak on a panel about teaching students to find the main idea of a paragraph or a short article. Others presented various studies of the problem and methods to improve teaching. He didn’t reject that but did ask what “main idea” could really mean, how it was affected by the purposes of the author and reader, the context of reading, and more.
Similarly, although he has drawn ideas and methods from philosophy, he sees it at best as a starting pad for grounded work in schools or communities. Accordingly he has employed ideas such as teaching by listening, cultural funds of knowledge, and communities as intellectual space.
Working across diverse projects he has systematically confronted theory with practice and practice with theory.