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Cadernos de História da Educação

versão On-line ISSN 1982-7806

Cad. Hist. Educ. vol.22  Uberlândia  2023  Epub 07-Ago-2023 

Dossiê 2 - A constituição do campo da Educação Especial no Brasil: entre tempos, lugares e pessoas

Helena Antipoff and Anísio Teixeira: dialogues in the field of the History of Special Education in Brazil1

Fernando César Ferreira Gouvêa1; lattes: 6186337020612168

Adriana Araújo Pereira Borges2; lattes: 9946652387882951

1Universidade Federal Rural do Rio de Janeiro (Brasil).

2Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (Brasil).


Helena Antipoff e Anísio Teixeira foram importantes intelectuais do cenário educacional brasileiro do século 20. No entanto, a relação entre eles é pouco explorada. O objetivo do artigo foi analisar essa relação, a partir do aporte teórico da História Cultural e da História Política. Foram analisadas fontes documentais, incluindo a correspondência estabelecida entre os intelectuais, a partir da mediação de outra personagem importante, Helena Dias Carneiro. Os resultados demonstram que Antipoff e Teixeira podem ser considerados intelectuais de pensamento e ação, pois os dois se dedicaram às pesquisas, mas ao mesmo tempo atuaram fortemente no campo político e institucional. Foi possível perceber ainda, afinidades teóricas, como atesta a relação de ambos com a Escola Ativa e preocupações semelhantes no que se refere ao campo educacional da época.

Palavras-chave: Helena Antipoff; Anísio Teixeira; Educação Especial


Helena Antipoff e Anísio Teixeira foram importantes intelectuais do cenário educacional brasileiro do século 20. No entanto, a relação entre eles é pouco explorada. O objetivo do artigo foi analisar essa relação, a partir do aporte teórico da História Cultural e da História Política. Foram analisadas fontes documentais, incluindo a correspondência estabelecida entre os intelectuais, a partir da mediação de outra personagem importante, Helena Dias Carneiro. Os resultados demonstram que Antipoff e Teixeira podem ser considerados intelectuais de pensamento e ação, pois os dois se dedicaram às pesquisas, mas ao mesmo tempo atuaram fortemente no campo político e institucional. Foi possível perceber ainda, afinidades teóricas, como atesta a relação de ambos com a Escola Ativa e preocupações semelhantes no que se refere ao campo educacional da época.

Palavras-chave: Helena Antipoff; Anísio Teixeira; Educação Especial


Helena Antipoff y Anísio Teixeira fueron importantes intelectuales en la escena educativa brasileña del siglo 20. Sin embargo, la relación entre ellos está poco explorada. El objetivo del artículo fue analizar esta relación, a partir del aporte teórico de la Historia Cultural y la Historia Política. Se analizaron fuentes documentales, incluida la correspondencia establecida entre intelectuales, a través de la mediación de otro personaje importante, Helena Dias Carneiro. Los resultados demuestran que Antipoff y Teixeira pueden ser considerados intelectuales del pensamiento y la acción, ya que ambos se dedicaron a la investigación, pero al mismo tiempo actuaron con fuerza en el campo político e institucional. También fue posible percibir afinidades teóricas, como lo demuestra su relación con la Escola Ativa y preocupaciones similares con respecto al campo educativo de la época.

Palavras-clave: Helena Antipoff; Anísio Teixeira; Educación Especial

Do not encourage those that, apparently humble and fearful, in reality passive and imitators, cumulate facts with no purpose, and later idly await eternally for the man that could unite them. (...) Invention must permeate everything, so that nothing of human labor is wasted. To elaborate a fact is to build it up. In other words, it is to provide an answer to a question. And if there is no questions, there is nothing. (Lucien Febvre, 1989).


This epigraph, borrowed from historian Lucien Febvre, reveals the initial basis for this paper, considering that it is the collective effort of researchers in the History of Education and Special Education in Brazil that produced facts and, by collating it, elaborated questions that they aim to answer. We see it as tentative solutions, due to the temporariness of possible answers and the broadening and additions that will certainly arise during this journey.

Thus, the compiled questions became challenges. Were there pedagogical affinities between Helena Antipoff (1892-1974) and Anísio Teixeira (1900-1971), prominent intellectuals from the 1930s to the 1970s in Brazil? In what period of time did their dialogues happened more intensely? Which institutions harbored their connection? Where does Special Education fit in each of their educational projects? Throughout the paper, we will expand the proposed questions. We should note that the methodology used in this paper is based on documentary and historical research, specially related to the Cultural History2 and the Political History3.

Cultural History values varied sources of publishing material (journals, newsletters, magazines, correspondence). The impact caused by this trend is expressed, according to Nunes e Carvalho (1993, p. 37), in a increasing preference to "favor as objects of investigation, cultural practices, its subjects and products, the latter viewed in its materiality as cultural objects". This way, new objects emerge that have, in their materiality and structure, points that mark the centrality operated by this perspective, as long as it is understood that such materiality of the object does not imply the possibility of a fracture between the text and the printed forms (CHARTIER, 1990).

Political History and "its variations are a result not only of variations that affect politics, but also a result of variations related to the way historians view politics (...)".(RÉMOND, 2003, p. 22). Its relevance to our paper is that Sirinelli, aligned with the Political History's mindset, understands an intellectual as "a political actor", an actor that "is involved in the city's life" and "in its projects", who can also be a witness or the conscience of these movements in relation to signing off manifestos and campaigns, magazine publishing and all actions that branch out to other social fields (2003, p. 231).

It should be emphasized that this political actor acts in a network. According to Elias (1994, p. 35), in this network "A lot of isolated wires bind together. However, the totality of this network or its individual forms can be understood as one wire, or even all of them, separately; the network is only comprehensive in the way that the wires connect, in its mutual relation." The network development generates sociability and intellectual microclimates. According to Gomes and Hansen (2016, p. 24), “intellectual sociability is understood as a basic practice for intellectual groups, that define their objectives (cultural and political) and associative forms [...] to act inside a broader society." That way, inputs from Cultural and Political History will be direct or indirectly present in the document analysis and the role played by the intellectuals highlighted here.

So, after clarifying the research questions, its nature, documents' importance and the concept of intellectual operating in a network of sociability, we understand that a basis is established upon which we can lay the next points, encompassing their pedagogical filiations and writings, the thesis that they were theoretical and action intellectuals - as they were dedicated to research but also to the building and management of institutions - and, finally, the conversation discovered in letters and newsletters revealing the proximity, by then not very deep, of two educators that refused, till the end of their lives, to remain idle in relation to the education of low income classes.4.

Pedagogical affinities between Helena Antipoff and Anísio Teixeira: Mind and action intellectuals

When we cross-referenced Antipoff and Teixeira pedagogical affinities, we tried to situate their pedagogical affiliation and educational ideas and topics in their writings and their actions in the building of a net of institutions that reflected their thinking. That is what we consider a relevant differential, due to difficulties to transform theory in a space for its practice, once its necessity to become meaningful required financial contribution and human resources that are scarce in Brazil, as well as a constant concern in relation to the operation of such institutions. Even relying on collaborators, responsibilities like leadership, assessment and contracts or agreements with public authorities depended on a final decision by these two intellectuals.

Helena Antipoff (1892-1974) moved to Paris in 1909, accompanied by her mother and sister, to continue her studies. She intended to study Medicine, but ended up dedicating herself to the study of Psychology. She met Édouard Claparède, who was already, at the time, an important name in European Psychology, at Théodore Simon and Alfred Binet (that had just died) laboratory. Both were involved with intelligence tests validation. Claparède invited Antipoff to be part of the first class at the Institute Jean Jacques Rousseau (IJJR). The institute was, simultaneously, a school of educational sciences and a research lab. During this period, "(...) Under the guidance of Édouard Claparède, she accepted an internship at Maison de Petits, a experimental school adjacent to the Institute, where she furthered her studies on the processes of child development" (CAMPOS, 1999, p. 237).

One of Claparède concerns was based on the subject's process of adaptation to the environment, in a perspective oriented to his or her interests and not as a simple acceptance of choices defined in advance. This change allowed - as soon as different forms of social engagement were possible - experimental studies and researches in Psychology. And so the basis for empirical studies in education was established and, in a special way, the necessity to bring the results of the studies to the classroom, where the learning experience took place (CAMPOS, 2010).

With these ideas in mind, IJJR was founded in 1912. The institution harbored intellectuals whose interests were focused on research involving Psychology and Educational issues. In addition to Claparède, Pierre Bovet, Adolphe Ferrière, Henri Wallon and Jean Piaget participated in the institute's activities. It is important to briefly present the main points of the changes imagined and practiced by these scholars in a movement called Escola Ativa5 as a counterpoint to the traditional school.

Education must always be maintained out of necessity, so it is necessary to deeply review the study programs and teaching methods typical of traditional schools, insofar as any participation motivated by the interest of the child, linked directly to their needs. Therefore, the school must organize itself according to the child, it must respect the child's nature and satisfy their needs, also organizing learning processes capable of being individualized, by offering a series of activity options, among which the child can choose freely (CAMBI, 1999, p. 529).

In 1916, Antipoff interrupted her studies at IJJR and moved to Russia, where she remained until 1924. In Russia, where she married and had her only child, she worked directly with orphaned and abandoned children. In 1924, she managed to leave the country and go to Germany to meet her exiled husband. She did not adapt to life in Germany and returned to Geneva in 1926 to complete her course at the IJJR and take on the role of assistant in the Institution's lab, alongside Claparède. In 1929, she received an invitation from the government of the state of Minas Gerais to teach at the Escola de Aperfeiçoamento de Professores de Belo Horizonte and to direct the Psychology Laboratory installed there.

Thus, when she arrived in Brazil in 1929, Antipoff brought in her 'pedagogical baggage' the studies and researches carried out in the search for changes in teacher training, based on the Psychology of Education and in the expectation of the displacement of the center of learning from teachers to students, one of the most important topics for Escola Ativa. Helena Antipoff played a key hole in teachers qualification in Brazil, especially in the fields of Special Education and Rural Education.

At this point in the paper, it is necessary to clarify that the theoretical and practical bases of Escola Ativa and Escola Nova are very close. When we observe the creation and organization of the International Office of New Schools, in Geneva in 1899, by Adolphe Ferrière - who was one of the collaborators at IJJR - and that the expression “Active School” was coined by Pierre Bovet, also a researcher at the aforementioned Institute - the overlapping of terminologies and, even more, their radical opposition to the Traditional School became evident. And if Escola Ativa is derived from the presence of real experiences in the classroom, Anísio Teixeira - one of the propagators of the work of John Dewey and Escola Nova in Brazil - when analyzing the educational experience from the point of view of the American educator, elaborated the following definition that confirms 'experience' as a common point between Escola Ativa and Escola Nova: “(...) Education is thus restored to its natural place in human life. It is a category, so to speak, of life, the inevitable result of experience". (TEIXEIRA e WESTBROOK, 2010, p.39)

Anísio Teixeira (1900-1971) took up public office for the first time in 1924. He was invited by the then newly invested Governor of Bahia, Góis Calmon, to head the General Inspectorate of Education6 and accepted the position with all the Catholic devotion of his Jesuit formation and as a follower of a political tradition that had a significant weight in the history of his family. The Bahian educational system in 1924 was chaotic and the challenge to be faced was of unimaginable proportions. He set up a commission, composed of leading figures in the educational environment, to guide Bahia's educational reform. Among the proposed discussion groups, he was included in the one dedicated to the reformulation of Primary Courses, thus emphasizing his concern with elementary school, for him a fundamental part of education as a whole. (GOUVÊA, 2001).

When analyzing the reform defended by Teixeira, prior to his travels and studies in the United States of America, two pieces of legislation draw attention: Law No.1,846 (08/14/1925) that altered the state's public education and Decree No. 4,312 (12/30/1935) which approved the Rules for Primary Education and Teacher Training. Law No.1,846, with 268 articles, presented, as points to be highlighted, the problem of a centralized administration, the priority and concerns for the primary school, a greater dissemination of education, meaning expansion and access to the population and an emphasis in teachers' qualification. Teacher's training courses became linked to Diretoria Geral de Instrução, a key step for its educational-administrative reorganization. Decree 4,312, through its 825 articles, regulated Law 1,846.

The two legal texts defended by the future intellectual reflected his moment before readings, courses and contacts in Brazil and abroad would point a new direction for this thinker. Both texts, in fact, expressed an understanding of legislation as something magical, capable not only of regulating but also of 'doing' education. According to Nunes (2010, p. 18),

At the same time that our educator was faced with this situation, he had decided to make two pedagogical trips to the United States. Thanks to these circumstances, he got in touch with a pedagogical literature and a public educational system that he did not know before. The first trip to America lasted seven months and took place in 1927. In it, Anísio Teixeira began reading John Dewey (1859-1952), he established friendly relations with Monteiro Lobato (1882-1948) - at the time commercial attaché in New York - he made pedagogical excursions and even prepared the grounds for a longer visit to that country in mid-1928 and 1929, when he had the opportunity to study.

From mid-1928 to 1929, he studied at Columbia University and earned a Master of Arts degree from Teachers College. That was when he deepened his study of Dewey's work, which definitively marked his academic trajectory. Exactly in 1928, he published a book titled 'Aspectos Americanos de Educação' with travel observations and first impressions of Dewey's investigations in the educational field, and in 1930 he translated and commented on two essays by the author entitled ‘Life and Education7” (NUNES, 1999).

The shift in Anísio Teixeira's thinking took place after further studying the works of this American intellectual when, upon returning from the United States in 1929, he presented to the new governor the report 'O Ensino no Estado da Bahia'8, in fact an assessment of his management achievements in the Public Education System in Bahia from 1924 to 1928, that also proposed pedagogical changes that should be done urgently in Bahian educational system based on the experiences he lived in the United States. We cite this document for we understand that it reveals an 'other' Anísio from an intellectual point of view. A new Anísio, who drank from new wells and from a new philosophy: Dewey's progressivism that, in Brazil, was the foundation for the New School's pillars. Not by chance, in 1932, Boletim de Educação published the article 'As diretrizes da Escola Nova', by Anísio Teixeira.

Having established the main pedagogical affiliations of Helena Antipoff and Anísio Teixeira, it is time to investigate common topics present in the writings of the two educators in question. Obviously, due to their extensive work, our examination will enable the finding of common concerns in the educational, social and political fields. Below, in table 01, we selected their writings and we comment each intellectual position after the table.

Table 01 Common topics in the writings of Helena Antipoff and Anísio Teixeira 

Helena Antipoff Anísio Teixeira
How can school contribute to the formation of democratic attitudes? (1944) A public, universal and free school. (1956)
Education of exceptional individuals (1956) Education is not a privilege.(1968)
A message to teachers (1973) Letters to the professor (1955)
Assistance to abandoned minors, street workers. (1934) Public education vs "elite" education. (1956)
How to assess student's social development at school?(1942) A full education experience.(1962)
The social function of assistance to exceptional children. (1946) Education for the masses is a requirement of democracy. (1958)
Puppet theatre. (1955) The art schools of August Rodrigues. (1970)

Sources: Campos (2010) and Nunes (2010).

The writings were chosen by thematic affinities and were not necessarily published in the same period of time. Our concern lies in understanding the problems that afflicted the two intellectuals in different fields of activities and that hampered the Brazilian educational process with serious consequences for the low income classes and their schooling process. It is important to highlight that the objective is to note common reflections, that is, thoughts shared by them without disregarding disagreements and without eliminating other agreements. In relation to disagreements, which we will address in the space dedicated to correspondence, an example of it is Teixeira's contrary position regarding rural schools' curriculum, in flagrant opposition to Antipoff who defended not only the curricula but also local schools for exceptional children in these regions, far from large urban centers. However, these aspects did not prevent dialogues and partnerships in the 1950s and 1960s.

For a more accurate understanding of Table 01, we will establish a comparison between two writings that point out a central issue in the thinking and action of the intellectuals in question: democracy9. Both Teixeira and Antipoff, throughout their academic carriers, fought for equal access to school for all, without any type of differentiation, in a perspective that school was not a preparation for life, but, contrary to the conservative thought, that school was life itself in a pedagogical action centered on braking down the walls that separated school and society. In this context, life would also be present in the school environment as a relevant element for a successful merger of pedagogical theory and teaching practice. A teaching practice based on research, informed and formed by studies and pedagogical reflections and not by improvisation.

Namely, a public school that would deal with individuals that were different, that would take from these same differences the necessary learning and, more than that, the desired attitudes so that low income classes, the sons and daughters of the working class, would break the invisibility status and enforce their rights to full citizenship. In fact, the objective of disseminating democracy and, consequently, equality, was the motto for the creation of education and research institutions as a basis for achieving an inclusive society project, although this term was not used at the time. The comparative analysis of the writings in table 01 highlights: the basis for the point of view of each one and their immediate concern about the Education of the Exceptional, which is not a privilege; connection and teacher training; assistance to street children in an elitist society; the socialization of students in a full-time school and art as a cultural element that is not separated from education. Thus, in Certeau's understanding, writing is to circumscribe, to demarcate, a place of production. Thus,

Fragments or linguistic materials are treated (machined, one might say) in this space, according to explicit methods and to create order. A series of articulated words [...] outlines on the page a trajectories that draw words, sentences and, finally, a system. In other words, on the blank page, an itinerant, progressive and regulated practice - a walk - composes the creation of another "world", now not received, but manufactured [...]. Under multiple forms, this text composed in its own space is utopia [...] (2004, p. 225).

In the search for this utopia, we will comment on the articles 'How can the school contribute to the formation of democratic attitudes?' and 'Public, universal and free school' in order to understand the democratic views present in the pedagogical writings of these intellectuals. We selected the articles for their relevance, since the educational basis of a society, at least in the contribution made by schools, are found in the scope of 'primary' education. Their views are contributions to the transformation of theory into action, such as changing the theorized school space into a place of practice experienced by students.

Helena Antipoff's article was published in 1944 in the first issue of Revista Brasileira de Estudos Pedagógicos. The author based her analysis on the experiences lived in public schools in the then primary cycle, understanding that the initial relations in the democratic formation of citizens of the future took place there. But she warns about the need to think that the existence of a school and the daily life of the classroom by itself would not guarantee the preparation for democracy as a given, without the necessary teaching interventions for the process to come to a successful conclusion.

It (democracy) requires organized training to form a second nature in the adult individual, made of attitudes and democratic actions, in accordance with a democratic ideal. There are many criteria for ideal and democratic action. Among them, we highlight two that, already in Primary School, can be seen as a virtue to be practiced, and a regime of work to be carried out. The name of the first is loyalty; the second is called cooperation. Every regime where both prevail is democratized and refined in the democratic sense. But if one or the other is disregarded, it degenerates into a regime of authoritarianism and social exploitation (ANTIPOFF, 1944, p. 36).

This way, loyalty and cooperation figured as central concepts for the creation of a place in which democratic experiences could be lived, experiences that go back to the pillars of the Active School and its proposal that the school should not be an institution isolated from the world, but the space for life to enter the students lives in a mixture of observation and experience, analysis and synthesis, seeing and reporting the 'seen'. Such a possibility would lead to the convergence of attitudes that would avoid authoritarian regimes and, consequently, among other things, social exploitation. A courageous reflection, in light of Estado Novo10 in Brazil and its policies for the educational field. On loyalty, let us follow Antipoff's questions regarding the role of the school and its pedagogical choices and paths.

What does the school do to instill in the child respect for loyalty? What pedagogical processes it uses to instill in his or her spirit a love for the truth, an interest in reality? How does it help the child to distinguish the false from the wrong, and to distinguish imaginary from real?... I don't know if there will be in schools this concern of approaching the child directly to facts to accustom their senses, their hands, their intelligence to reflect Nature with fidelity, as it is, in its palpable appearances; to create the habit of seeing with their own eyes and verifying knowledge through the increasingly active handling of things and phenomena (Ibidem, p. 37).

With regard to cooperation, she states that it leads to the autonomy of the social group, aware of its attributions and free to make decisions.

And it still needs to stop being a "herd" and to present to the collectivity a certain social structure. This is achieved when each of the members of the group, reflecting their individuality, applies in the collective effort for certain ends. We must ask ourselves: does the class, as a whole, present an amorphous crowd, or does it have an organized collectivity with more or less defined structures? (Ibidem, p. 42).

Therefore, the intellectual, by highlighting loyalty and cooperation as fundamental elements for democracy, leads us to think about the existing values practiced by the school in the distinction between false and true, imaginary and real in the formation of habits and attitudes that would raise the level of citizenship to the critical understanding of society in a collective endeavor in search of social equality. A similar search to that of Teixeira, in the article ‘A escola pública, universal e gratuita’11 published in the Revista Brasileira de Estudos Pedagógicos in 195612.

The article was twenty-six pages long, of which the first sixteen traced the historical trajectory of Brazilian public school from the 19th Century to the 1950s. Teixeira devoted the remaining ten pages to examining the need to restore the democratic sense in the Brazilian education expansion in a critical approach. According to the author (p. 18), “Reactionism and Conservatism seem like innocent things, but their price is always something astonishing”. In the same line of reasoning, he drew the relationship between public school and democracy.

We do not advocate for the monopoly of education by the State, but we believe that everyone has the right to a free education, and only those who want will be able to seek private education. In a society like ours, traditionally marked by a profound class spirit and privilege, only public school will be truly democratic and only it will be able to have a common training program, without prejudice against certain forms of work essential to democracy. (Ibidem, p. 21).

As we stated earlier, both for Antipoff as for Teixeira, the democratization of Brazilian society and the equality of social conditions necessarily passed through primary schools with a consistent common formation that could fight the creation of elites which would hold, through their privileges, the power to make decisions solely for the maintenance or extension of their rights to the detriment of the working classes. Therefore, school should enable a national citizen.

Democracies, however, being regimes of social equality and unified people, that is, with equality of individual rights and a system of government of universal suffrage, cannot do without a solid common education, to be given in primary school, with a complete curriculum and full day school, designed to prepare the national citizen and the unskilled worker and, in addition, to establish an equal basis of opportunities, from which everyone will start, without hereditary or any other limitations, for the multiple and diverse types of education semi-specialized and specialized, subsequent to primary education (Ibidem, p. 25).

The relevance attributed to the primary school by Antipoff and Teixeira does not exclude other levels of education from their responsibilities in the construction of a democratic society. According to Teixeira (Ibidem, p. 27), “We do not demean any of the efforts for education beyond primary, but we claim the number one priority, the school on which all schools are based - is the primary school”. In fact, this perspective is confirmed when we examine the institutions created and run by the two intellectuals, institutions that have influenced all levels of education with direct and indirect impact in the classroom.

In the time span from the 1930s to the 1970s, Helena Antipoff and Anísio Teixeira created numerous teaching and research institutions that, for the most part, still make a relevant contribution to Brazilian education, arousing the interest of researchers as an object of study present in books, articles, theses, dissertations and other academic works. The foundation of so many institutions required the participation of collaborators, so that the projects could become reality and that the daily management would accompany the complexity of the work in constant change.

We can point to the construction of sociability networks, among intellectuals, as a determining factor that brought together the collaborators within such endeavors in a dynamic driven by the sharing of ideas through magazines, manifestos, petitions that are part of the sociability structure in “intellectual microcosms.” (SIRINELLI, 2003, p.249) and without which the creations of Antipoff and Teixeira would not be sustained.

Thus, we prepared table 02 in order to inform some of the institutions founded by the aforementioned educators13 at the same time and, later, we will analyze Centro Brasileiro de Pesquisas Educacionais (especially Centro Regional de Pesquisas Educacionais de Minas Gerais) and Instituto Superior de Educação Rural (ISER) as the places that led to a more effective and closer relationship between Helena Antipoff and Anísio Teixeira, as revealed by the correspondence under the custody of Helena Antipoff Documentation and Research Center.

Table 02 Some institutions created by Helena Antipoff and Anísio Teixeira (1930s to 1970s) 

Year Helena Antipoff Year Anísio Teixeira
1932 Sociedade Pestalozzi de Minas Gerais 1933 Instituto de Pesquisas Educacionais no Distrito Federal
1934 Instituto Pestalozzi 1935 Universidade do Distrito Federal
1940 Escola da Fazenda do Rosário 1950 Centro Popular de Educação Carneiro Ribeiro
1944 Sociedade Pestalozzi do Brasil 1951 Campanha de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de nível Superior
1954 Instituto Superior de Educação Rural 1955 Centro Brasileiro de Pesquisas Educacionais
1973 Associação Milton Campos para o Desenvolvimento de Vocações 1962 Universidade de Brasília

Sources: Campos (2010) and Nunes (2010).

ISER was officially created through Decree No. 4,830 on December 12, 1955. In this decree, it is clarified that a higher education institution was already operating at Fazenda do Rosário, intended for research, guidance and specialization in Rural Education. Therefore, there was already cooperation between the government of the State of Minas Gerais and the Pestalozzi Society. The Decree regulated this cooperation (MINAS GERAIS, 1955).

Beginning in 1958, through an agreement between Centro Regional de Pesquisas Educacionais de Minas Gerais (CRPE-MG), the government of Minas and the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Minas, Instituto Superior de Educação Rural became part of the structure of the CRPE -MG which was under the direction of Mário Casasanta (Monthly Newsletter, Centro Brasileiro de Pesquisas Educacionais, n. 31, Feb., p. 6, 1960). It is worth noting that it was only two years after the agreement that the aforementioned journal published something about the incorporation of the Institute to the Center with a detail that, when examining the sources, caught our attention: there was no lack of space for the publication of those news, given that the Newsletter of September 1959 devoted five pages to ISER's courses and researches. At the moment, we have no justification for this action. However, it is necessary to note that the delay and the little information on the very existence of the agreement are reflected in the absence of such an institutional change in some academic works, that is, only researchers who had access to the CRPE-MG Newsletter or the Monthly Newsletter from Centro Brasileiro de Pesquisas Educacionais (CBPE) were able to rewrite the trajectory of ISER from 1958 to 1964. Thus, it is worth asking: why are we problematizing this point? Although Teixeira and Antipoff, as shown through their correspondence, were already in contact due to other projects - such as the allocation of financial resources from INEP in 195414 to Escola Normal Rural da Fazenda do Rosário15 - it was when the Institute was incorporated by CRPE-MG that their conversation was intensified, once Anísio Teixeira was the director of CBPE.

Centro Brasileiro de Pesquisas Educacionais was created by Decree No. 38,460 of December 1955, with the city of Rio de Janeiro as its location and five more Regional Centers for Educational Research: São Paulo, Minas Gerais, Recife, Rio Grande do Sul and Bahia. Effectively, the year 1957 represented a period of general organization for the institution, with regard to its facilities and the hiring of enough professionals to give the minimum operating conditions to these research bodies.

CBPE had in its basic structure the Directorate of Programs, the Divisions of Educational Studies and Research, Social Studies and Research, Documentation and Pedagogical Information and the Division of Teaching Improvement, in addition to the Executive Secretariat and the Administrative Service. The Regional Centers should have an organizational structure identical to that of CBPE (GOUVÊA, 2008).

The annexation of ISER to CRPE-MG resulted in a significant increase in funds and maintained the coordination of the Institute under the responsibility of Helena Antipoff. Therefore, there was no type of intervention, but a process of collaboration regarding courses and researches. As an example, we have the research 'The influence of Rural Education institutions on its most immediate neighborhood', which was coordinated by the Division of Social Studies and Research at CRPE-MG with the assistance of Oracy Nogueira (Coordinator of the Division of Social Studies and Research at the CBPE) and Antipoff's participation in decisions related to methodology, questionnaires, interviews and target audience. The research spanned the years 1959 and 1960 and led to the book 'Várzea do Pantana', by Watanabe and others, published in 1961 by CRPE-MG under the management of Abgar Renault (Monthly Newsletter, Centro Brasileiro de Pesquisas Educacionais, n. 25, Aug., p. 19, 1959).

Thus, having established pedagogical affinities between Helena Antipoff and Anísio Teixeira regarding pedagogical affiliations, the ideas and topics of their writings and the education and research institutions created, we will advance, in the third part of this paper, to the analysis of the correspondence between the two intellectuals.

Mediated correspondence: dialogues between Helena Antipoff and Anísio Teixeira

In the opening of this third part of the paper, we want to discuss two aspects in relation to the correspondence between the two intellectuals. The first is directly related to our research in the archives and the second to the methodology that presided over the dialogues between Helena Antipoff and Helena Dias Carneiro from 1954 to 1962. According to Borges and Barbosa (2019, p. 174),

The correspondence established between Helena Dias Carneiro and Helena Antipoff is fruitful in quotes about Anísio Teixeira, an influential public figure in the field of education. Financial issues are also a recurring topic. Helena Dias Carneiro, a resident of Rio de Janeiro, then the federal capital of Brazil, was the link between Antipoff and influential politicians in the field of education.

The authors' statement, at the moment when we focus in the investigation in Helena Dias Carneiro Collection16 and Anísio Teixeira Archive, gained clearer contours with the survey of the correspondence and its respective numerical balance: from a total of 240 letters in the first mentioned file, we found 22 dealing with dialogues between Antipoff and Teixeira. In addition to the correspondence between Helena Dias and Helena Antipoff, in which the former assumes the role of mediator between Antipoff and Teixeira, correspondence between the two intellectuals were located in the archive of Helena Antipoff Museum (formerly Fazenda do Rosário) in the city of Ibirité, Minas Gerais. It is important to clarify that the Helena Antipoff Museum has a vast collection of uncatalogued correspondence. Therefore, it is possible that there is still unexplored material about the two intellectuals. On the other hand, in the Teixeira Archive, of its 13,545 letters, there is none from Antipoff. This fact surprised us because Anísio Teixeira was, as described by Heymann (2003, p.99), a “document hoarder”. It is very possible that their correspondence have been lost. As for the methodology used in the letter exchange, initially, we had difficulty in understanding the process of building bridges by the two intellectuals. In general, academic works that deal with missives as part of the solidification of the sociability network are based on direct conversation, that is, the search in two different archives with the topic listed as the main one and the dated selection of letters that configure an exchange, a debate, a dialogue with responses to previous correspondence. We can refer to, as an example, the book edited by Diana Gonçalves Vidal: 'Na Batalha da Educação: Correspondência entre Anísio Teixeira e Fernando de Azevedo' (1929-1971).17

We prepared tables 03 and 04 so that the transit of correspondence can be understood, due to its importance to this paper.

Table 03 Correspondence by Antipoff with references to Anísio Teixeira found in Helena Dias Carneiro Estate 

Sender Number of letters Recipient
Helena Dias Carneiro (APAE) 17 Helena Antipoff
Anísio Teixeira (INEP/CBPE/MEC) 01 Helena Antipoff
Lúcia Marques Pinheiro (CBPE/INEP) 01 Helena Antipoff
Helena Antipoff 01 Elizabeth18
Renata19 01 Helena Antipoff
Signature unreadable 01 Helena Antipoff

Source: Correspondence - Helena Dias Carneiro Collection

The information contained in table 03 revealed that Helena Dias Carneiro was the main interlocutor between Antipoff, the Ministry of Education and its various sectors. Thus, we coined the expression “mediated correspondence” in order to make it possible to understand this triangulation that was crucial for obtaining financial resources and establishing agreements and partnerships for the performance of different professionals in the institutions under the management of Helena Antipoff.

Before examining the documents, it is necessary to clarify that Helena Dias Carneiro, during the period of the letters selected for the paper, worked at Sociedade Pestalozzi do Brasil (SPB) since 1945 and, from 1954 onwards, coordinated SPB's Student Council, and that same year, she participated in the foundation of Associação de Pais e Amigos dos Excepcionais (APAE) of Rio de Janeiro20. Helena Dias' approach to Helena Antipoff was guided by Special Education. On the one hand, the condition of Helena Dias as a ASD mother. On the other hand, the position occupied by Antipoff as an expert on the subject. The two formed a friendship that lasted many years, until Antipoff's death in 1974.

Table 4 shows the correspondence between Antipoff and Teixeira, located in the Helena Antipoff Museum. In addition to these, we found 8 telegrams from Teixeira to Antipoff, all about INEP funding issues.

Table 04 Correspondence found at the Helena Antipoff Museum  

Sender Number of letters Recipient
Helena Antipoff 5 Anísio Teixeira
Anísio Teixeira 2 Helena Antipoff

It was possible to note from the correspondence analyzed between Antipoff and Teixeira that, despite the formality - after all it was an official correspondence that dealt with projects and the use of public money - both showed respect for each other. The two intellectuals had common goals: the improvement of public education based on scientific knowledge and that was truly inclusive, reaching the rural population and the so-called exceptional. Antipoff wrote longer letters, describing projects for ISER. Teixeira's correspondence to Antipoff was more formal, containing information about the allocation of funds, as the telegrams attest, but always with an affectionate greeting or farewell.

In the first letter from Antipoff to Teixeira (not dated), Antipoff address expectations about the constitution of ISER to Anísio Teixeira:

It is certainly daring to aspire something when one does not even think of the possibility to offer it to anyone who decides to ask for it. How would you now consider our request which, in an impulse of optimism, presented itself to us with some probability of success? Dreams, bold plans, illusions of grandeur, or lack of discernment, modesty, prudence? Perhaps exaggerating the merits of the past, thinking about the future with some fear of losing some acquisitions that seem to deserve some public approval, and in an immense desire to secure what already exists but is so precariously now that it threatens to get worse every day, we turn to you with the following objective: to give Fazenda do Rosário and all existing or future institutions under it, according to plans already outlined by its counselors and advisors plus those that can be created within the plan that National Institute of Educational Research intend to implement - a 'stamp' of national or large regional significance; - a complete educational center for teacher training at the primary and secondary levels for primary and teaching courses, as well as for specialization, training and pedagogical improvement for teaching and educating, in rural areas, regular, exceptionally bad and exceptionally gifted students as well as the underprivileged, the maladjusted and the ones in moral danger (Antipoff to Teixeira, not dated).

If the intention was to sensitize her interlocutor, it is possible to say that Antipoff was successful. ISER was conceived and established, although tension existed. In correspondence located in the Anísio Teixeira Archive, he complained to the then Minister of Education, Clóvis Salgado, about the way ISER conducted its work:

The idea of a higher institute would not be a bad one, if it could be truly superior. Otherwise it is a fake name for a simple regular school. It would be pertinent to underline that the education system of Brazilians is the same, for both rural and urban citizens. But the school in the countryside, like the urban school in the city, must be deeply integrated with its environment. Hence being rural in the countryside, beach style in seaside cities and urban in large cities. The objectives, however, are the same. As the teacher's autonomy to carry out this integration is only achieved with a good culture background and this is almost always impossible in schools segregated in the countryside, good rural centers are still the ones that are annexes to Institutes of Education. ISER does not, however, maintain any connection with Instituto de Educação de Belo Horizonte, thus not being able to benefit from the best nurture of its teachers [...]”. (Teixeira to Clovis Salgado, 1957).

Therefore, the importance of a scientific base needed to prepare teachers was already on the agenda. In a 1956 letter, Antipoff talks about André Rey’s stay 21 in Brazil. Teixeira (1956) sends a request for Rey to stay in Rio de Janeiro for a month, to conduct a Psychology course, thus reacting to a suggestion by Antipoff herself, about the preparation of a group from all over Brazil in this specialization, in reference to education of exceptional students. In the same letter, Teixeira talks about Joseph Aunia, a specialist in the education of mentally handicapped children. Graduated in Algeria, Aunia worked in Québec and Montreal, Canada and expressed interest in working with Antipoff at Fazenda do Rosário.

Antipoff's bold plans, as she put it, depended on continued funding. And despite all of Teixeira's dedication to meeting the financial demands, it is clear that there was no fixed budget for the execution of such an audacious project. Antipoff (1961) tells Teixeira: “I have long wanted to write to you and tell you about our struggles and needs. We hoped that the new government would pay more attention to rural areas and education, but it is still in the 'planning' phase: we may have to wait a long time.”

The financial demands, the attempts to organize ISER and the search for resources occupied a good part of the correspondence established between Antipoff and Carneiro. It is necessary to remember Brazil's struggles in the 1950s and 1960s. Telephone calls were made, but sparingly, as it was very expensive. Telegrams were the fastest way to convey simple messages. Letters took a while to arrive in another state. The role of Helena Dias Carneiro, who lived in Rio de Janeiro, was to mediate the demands established by Antipoff and, in a way, to constantly remind Anísio Teixeira about the commitments made for ISER. All letters deal with financial matters, funds, unpaid expenses, attempts to raise funds for ISER and for activities carried out at Fazenda do Rosário. A letter from 1957 attests to Helena Carneiro's commitment to mediating with Anísio Teixeira. She says that she went to the Ministry of Education to ask the minister for support for Antipoff's attendance to a conference and for information about a project that has been stalled in the House of Representatives since June. On that occasion, she met Anísio Teixeira in the waiting room and questioned him about not being ISER's godfather anymore, to which Teixeira replied that he would always be the Institute's godfather. Her interactions with the Ministry appear in other letters. She was the one who went to the Ministry and presented demands and reports. She circulated in the political arena and had open doors, in addition to representing Helena Antipoff. She exercised a necessary mediation, given the context of the time.

The correspondence analyzed here is just a clipping, considering that Helena Antipoff's collection is still unexplored. But it is possible to perceive in both Antipoff and Teixeira a dedication to the ideals that both defended: a public, quality school for all Brazilians.

Final Considerations

It is our understanding that, at the moment, we face a limitation to establish something that could be close to the necessary final considerations, given that to highlight the conversation between Helena Antipoff and Anísio Teixeira - less due to the absence of sources and more due to the originality of the topic - required an effort to examine pedagogical affinities, intellectual trajectories and the institutions created - through the eyes of each one of them. So, we first traced the profile of Antipoff and Teixeira individually in each part of the paper as a double movement: from the comprehension of this particular issue, we made the comparisons.

This way we were able, in part, as there is much to be studied, to respond to the challenges posed by our research problems: Were there pedagogical affinities between Helena Antipoff (1892-1974) and Anísio Teixeira (1900-1971), prominent intellectuals from the 1930s to the 1970s in Brazil? In what period of time did these dialogues happened more intensely? Which institutions harbored their established connection? Where does Special Education fit in each of their educational projects?

In fact, we navigated through agreements and disagreements, individual and collective projects, permissions and interdictions as these aspects are also inherent to the history of the two intellectuals, that in this case were mediators who used thought and action in order to question the traditional model of school, the model of a social configuration based on inequality and a view that placed Special Education as a nuisance, a non-place, and a space destined for those who deserved pity. However, there was one more penalty: that of being penalized for not being “normal” (a regular term at the time) and belonging to low income classes.

However, the last part of our paper “Mediated Correspondence: Dialogues between Helena Antipoff and Anísio Teixeira” points out that such dialogues in the History of Special Education in Brazil were relevant and demonstrate how fundamental they were for the creation of several teaching and research institutions of this educational modality in a network of collaborators whose spirit still resides in schools, research institutions and in the hands of researchers who, today, continue to seek dialogues even in a time of uncertainty - as the traveler who, in the middle of a desert, still believes in finding an oasis because being a teacher is about sailing away in search of a port without really knowing if it exists.


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1Supported by National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) and Minas Gerais Research Foundation (Fapemig). English version by Cida Volkmann. E-mail:

2Cultural History is a tributary of 'New History', a historiographical revolution gestated at the Annales School. For more on Cultural History and Annales School, see, respectively: Burke (2005) e Burke (2010).

3Regarding methodological issues and the History of Ideas in relation to Politics, see: Skinner (2005).

4For more information on their biographies, we suggest the following works: Helena Antipoff (CAMPOS, 2010; BORGES, 2014) and Anísio Teixeira (NUNES, 2010; SOUZA, 2018).

5“The Escola Ativa movement refers to a Geneva-specific approach, which especially emphasized children's spontaneity, autonomy and creativity in the learning process.” (CAMPOS, 2010, p.18-19).

6Although he graduated from Law school at the University of Rio de Janeiro in 1922.

7The two essays were incorporated in 1930 to the Biblioteca de Educação collection (BE) directed by Lourenço Filho. Later, in 1971, it was included in the book 'John Dewey, Life and Education'. In 1980, the essays were part of 'The Thinkers' collection in the book dedicated to Dewey. Regarding the translation of Dewey's works by Anísio Teixeira, as per: Toledo and Carvalho (2017).

8Part of the report was published by Revista de Educação under the title 'Sugestões para a reorganização progressiva do Sistema Educacional Baiano', Salvador, year 11, n. 3, Nov 1930.

9We understand that the topic 'democracy' directly or indirectly encompasses all the writings in Table 01. However, it is necessary to emphasize the care with teacher training and the presence of art in schools. The reading of the writings allow the consubstantiation from theory to action in the institutions created or directed by Helena Antipoff and Anísio Teixeira.

10“Political reform began with the coup of November 10, 1937, under the leadership of Getúlio Vargas, with support of the Army and other anti-democratic forces. Citizens were informed of the coup through information transmitted by radio. (...). After the advent of the Estado Novo, the consolidation of a mass policy that was being prepared since the beginning of the decade took place. Constituted through a coup d'état, without any popular participation, the representatives of power sought legitimacy and support from broader sectors of society through propaganda, conveyed by the media, aimed at society in general, and low incomes classes in particular. In addition to seeking support, the integration of the masses aimed at controlling them on new bases.” (CAPELATO, 2010, p.110-111).

11Lecture given at the Congress of Education of the State of São Paulo, in Ribeirão Preto, September, 1956.

12According to Ferreira and Delgado (2003), the period from 1945 (post Estado Novo) to 1964 (civil-military coup) can be understood as the time of democratic experience and not democracy. The option is not just a mere exchange of terminology, but it is based on the delicate political, economic and social situation of the period and on the myth of the armed forces as a moderate force that in 1954 demanded the resignation of Getúlio Vargas; still in 1954, during the interim government of Carlos Luz, there was a new attempt at institutional rupture; in 1961, with the resignation of Jânio Quadros, there was a movement to avoid the inauguration of João Goulart, vice president-elect; the ticket that won the 1955 elections, Juscelino-Goulart, was also the target of coups to prevent him from taking office. Finally, the cycle was closed with the civil-military coup of 1964, a coup supported by conservative political parties, part of the business community and part of the press.

13Not by chance, when placing the work of Antipoff, Campos (2010) considers the period from 1932 to 1974 as a time for proposing alternatives with the creation of several institutions aimed at the exceptional.

14Anísio Teixeira was INEP's director from 1952 to 1964.

15As per Helena Dias Carneiro correspondence, dated June 16, 1954.

16Helena Dias Carneiro Collection is being organized.

17See Vidal (2000).

18So far, we know that she was Antipoff's assistant at the Pestalozzi Society of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro.

19Like Helena Dias Carneiro, she was a member of the Association of Parents and Friends of the Exceptional (APAE) in Rio de Janeiro.

20In reference to Helena Dias Carneiro, see: Guia dos arquivos UFMG de História da Psicologia no Brasil.

21In reference to André Rey, see: Frederick (2003).

Received: June 26, 2022; Accepted: September 06, 2022

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