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Normalität, Abnormalität und Devianz.
Gesellschaftliche Konstruktionsprozesse und ihre Umwalzungen in der Moderne
Oktober 9-11. 2009.
Katolisches Priesterseminar, Eger
A conference entitled Long Way Towards Inclusive Education was held in Pamplona June 2009. I was the only
Hungarian participant and I had the possibility to gain insight into the colourful and successful history of the
education of subnormal children in Spain. This paper intends to present and outline the history of specialised
education in Spain, focusing mainly on the 19th century relying partly on lectures delivered on the above
conference, primary sources and literature on the topic. As background information I would like to mention the
enormous and invaluable help with which the Miguel Cervantes Virtual Library1 contributed to my being able to
expand my research with its millions of freely available digital volumes and books of utmost importance
concerning the history of the education of subnormal children in Spain from the medieval times to the present,
unabridged in the original pictured versions in Spanish and/or Catalan.
First of all, I would like to briefly discuss the initial steps of therapeutic education in Spain from the Middle
Ages up to modern times. Then I am going to mention the special schools and basic books used in the 19th century
and finally I intend to present the way the Spanish (in some places Catalan) terminology reflected the changes in
the treatment and acceptance of people (children) with aptitudes and abilities different from the ‘normal’ from the
Middle Ages up to the present.
Let me also call attention to the limitations of this study: although I have pursued smaller and larger research
in the past two decades touching upon the history of education in Spain, as a researcher I have not dealt with the
history of the education of subnormal children so far. Therefore, in some places I had difficulties understanding
the special terminology fully and rendering it properly into English and Hungarian.
The Beginnings of Education of Children with Special Needs
In medieval Spain – similarly to other countries on the continent – people with physical handicap (the crippled
and lame), psychic abnormalities (the mad) and those who had problems with the sensory organs (primarily the
blind) were considered lunatic and sinful and were subsequently outcast from society and confined just as in
previous ages2. The Middle Ages saw them as others, as different and did not provide them schooling. It was not
until the Renaissance that changes started to be felt in Hispany in the ways these people were seen and treated. It
was only then when their fate was treated in a more humane way, and in some places even schooling was
provided. From this time onward, we can mention several pedagogic thinkers who in their works and schoolorganising
efforts were trying to provide special help to disadvantaged pupils. The well-known humanist Juan
Luis Vives (1492-1540) felt and also described the psychological and social differences among his pupils and
encouraged a special approach and treatment to pupils with substandard abilities or disadvantaged status. In his
work De anima et viva (1538) for example – referring also to Aristotle – he emphasized hearing as the most vital
sensory ability for learning and education.
In the Enlightenment it was, among others, Benito Jeronimo Feijóo y Montenegro (1676-1764), Lorenzo
Hervás y Panduro (1735-1809) és Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos (1744-1811) who in their works touched upon
the issue of the education of subnormal children. The end of the 18th century saw the emergence of schools for
children with special needs mainly in the bigger cities of Spain, but typically, then and throughout the 19th century
only the education of children with sensory disabilities was paid attention to.
The first documents of Spanish history of education are about