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Educação & Realidade

Print version ISSN 0100-3143On-line version ISSN 2175-6236

Educ. Real. vol.43 no.1 Porto Alegre Jan./Mar. 2018 

Dialogues with Thinkers about Education

Dialogues between Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Special Education and Curriculum

Alexandro Braga VieiraI 

Ines de Oliveira RamosI 

IUniversidade Federal do Espírito Santo (UFES), Vitória/ES - Brazil


This study aims to bring together special education and the production by Boaventura de Sousa Santos. It seeks to understand how the author’s theories contributed to the education of children with disabilities, pervasive developmental disorders, and high-potential/giftedness in regular schools. We analyze major concepts of the author’s thoughts and how they can be approached regarding premises of special education from the perspective of school inclusion. Also, we present an experiment of continuing education carried out with elementary education teachers to rethink the implication of school curricula for special education students.

Keywords: Special Education; Curriculum; Specialized Education Service


O texto tem como objetivo a aproximação da Educação Especial com as produções de Boaventura de Sousa Santos. Busca entender como as teorias do autor contribuem com a escolarização de alunos com deficiência, com transtornos globais do desenvolvimento e com altas habilidades/superdotação na escola. Traz conceitos centrais do pensamento do autor e aproximações que podem ser feitas com os pressupostos da Educação Especial na perspectiva da inclusão escolar e apresenta uma experiência de formação continuada com professores da Educação Básica para reflexão crítica das implicações dos currículos escolares na escolarização de alunos apoiados pela Educação Especial.

Palavras-chave: Educação Especial; Currículo; Atendimento Educacional Especializado


In 2011, at the 34ª Reunião Anual da Associação Nacional de Pós-Graduação e Pesquisa em Educação [34th Annual Meeting of the National Association of Graduate Studies and Research in Education] (Anped), held in Natal, state of Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil, were celebrated the 20 years of the Special Education Research Group (GT 15), with a commissioned study developed by Júlio Romero Fernandez and José Geraldo Bueno, named Os 20 anos do GT de Educação Especial: gênese, trajetória e consolidação [The 20 years of the Special Education Research Group: genesis, trajectory, and consolidation].

The research aimed to constitute the historical trajectory of the GT, highlighting, among the various themes, some theoretical perspectives that support the studies produced in the field of special education in Brazil, presented in the 20 years in the Special Education Research Group. This action sparked our desire to revisit the theoretical approaches used by researchers to understand themes related to special education in their investigations. We perceived that, beyond Foucault, Bahktin, Lacan, Elias, Sacristán, Bobbio, Vygotsky, among others, in recent years, several research have adopted Special Education as a study line and promoted dialogues with the theories by Boaventura de Sousa Santos.

The approximation of studies in the field of Special Education with productions by Boaventura de Sousa Santos piqued our interest in understanding how the author’s theorizing about why indolent reason, the Sociologies of Absences and Emergencies, the translation process, and the abyssal and post abyssal thought are contributing to the promotion of knowledge about the schooling of students with disabilities, global development disorders, and high-potential/giftedness in regular schools, a situation that prompted us to produce this paper. It is organized as follows: in the first part, we discuss central concepts of the author’s thought and approaches that can be made with the assumptions of Special Education in the perspective of school inclusion; and, in the second part, we present an experience of continued education developed with teachers of Basic Education to critically reflect on the implications of the school curricula in the schooling of students supported by Special Education, relying on the contributions of the theories by Sousa Santos (2006; 2007).

Dialogues between Boaventura de Sousa Santos and Special Education

The inclusion of students with disabilities, global development disorders, and high-potential in regular schools constitutes, in Brazil, an ethical move supported by the assumption of Education as a public and subjective right, and by the offer of specialized educational service to support the specific learning needs of this population of students (Brasil, 1996). This movement presents, unarguably, several problems. One of the recurring concerns in the studies of many researchers (Baptista, 2011; Mendes; Silva; Pletsh, 2011) is the creation of propitiator contexts for the appropriation of systematic knowledge by students, a situation that defies the regular school, educational policies, and teacher training (initial and continued).

This concern is supported by the fact that the statistics of the Ministry of Education indicate a significant increase in the enrollment of students supported by Special Education on regular schools. According to the Technical Summary of the School Census of 2013, in 2007, there were 306,136 enrollments of students supported by Special Education in Basic Education and, in 2013, 648,921 students. Many studies (Kassar, 2011; Prieto; Andrade; Raimundo, 2013) point out that, although the implementation of public policies for the permanence of these individuals in the schools exist in Brazil (e.g., Multifunctional Resources Room Program, Accessible School, Adapted School Transport, Training of Teachers in Specialized Educational Care, among others), questions on how to mediate the teaching-learning processes of students with physical, psychological, sensory, and intellectual disorders and with high-potential/giftedness pose themselves as a strong question to the teaching practices, with largely fragile answers (Sousa Santos, 2007).

The search for understanding the difficulties faced by teachers in engaging students in the activities planned and developed for access to school curricula is one of the elements that brought several researchers closer to the theories by Sousa Santos (2006), mainly because the author discuss how modern thinking constitutes and presents itself in contemporary society. According to the author, modern knowledge is nourished by a monocultural epistemological technique, called Eurocentric or indolent reason, which places the scientific knowledge as unique and totalitarian, causing it to have difficulties recognizing the existence of other knowledge and dialoguing with them. This rationality is daring, lazy, and unable to interpret a world filled with experiences. It is also unable to produce new ideas/alternatives to the challenges that emerge in the social fabric, resulting in the feeling that many challenges are insuperable/insurmountable.

As Sousa Santos (2006) explains, indolent reason is a rationality whose main characteristic is the maintenance of the status of hegemonic groups, cultural and financial capital holders, who regulate the functioning of social life, thus making invisible a large portion of the population who lives without great existence expectations, they deny the possibility of these people having their lifestyles recognized, as well as having other possibilities of participation in the development of society. Questioning this hegemonic desire for a single knowledge and the representation of a single social group in this production, Streck (2012, p. 21) emphasizes that:

[...] knowledge is not a privilege of a certain group of people. It has history and geography [...]. It is necessary to recognize that the paths for emancipation are diverse and that a democratic society cannot do without this cognitive ecology, recognizing the diversity of subjects and places and forms of knowledge production.

In the context of Education, this rationality affects how curricula are organized (and practiced), placing some types of knowledge at the top of legitimacy, while many others are negated or rendered invisible. With this way of conceiving knowledge, indolent thinking favors the privilege of some cultures, presenting them to students as the only true possibilities, denying or belittling, simultaneously, many others, including those of many students who live in disadvantaged contexts or that have life trajectories distant from what is considered mainstream. With this way of dealing with knowledge, indolent reason ensures access to learning for some people while denying it for others. In school, indolent reason promotes the selection of what shall be taught to students, a selection made a priori, failing to consider that human needs, as they are permeated by many commonalities, are also formed by many specificities that, not being legitimized by indolent reason, are viewed as not credible, therefore, unable to be incorporated to school curricula.

Facing this scenario, indolent reason creates the idea that students with disabilities, global development disorders, and high-potential/giftedness are ineducable and unable to be involved in school curricula, limited only to experiences aimed at coexistence/sociability. Often, the student demonstrates significant learning processes, but, for not fitting the recognized standard, indolent reason produces in the teacher a feeling of not knowing how to teach that individual and legitimize what he produced in terms of knowledge, when assessing learning.

In this sense, we have to constantly cast a sensible look to regular classrooms to recognize how indolent reason is searching to be materialized. As this is an audacious thought, full of tricks and uncompromises with social reemancipation and cognitive justice among different knowledge, it produces, initially, the feeling that a curriculum proposal based on values, principles, and knowledge is necessary to keep control of disadvantaged classes. In addition, it disfavors the fact that, in the culture we are a part of, the school needs to be configured as the space for mediation of learning contexts that favor knowledge appropriation, understood as essential to human development. With this, it denies this historical production for many individuals, creating the idea that a quality school is one in which the students adapt to the imposed systems and contemplates the expectations of large-scale assessments.

Based on the ideas by Sousa Santos (2006; 2007), we believe that a quality school is the one that bets the student can learn; does not give up on inserting him/her in the human circle; takes ownership of the educational processes as a possibility of reversal of uneven processes of participation in life in society; assumes the guarantee of education for all students, regardless of their economic, family, cultural or psychological conditions; nourishes an ethical commitment to allow ways for students to make their own cultural production, offering opportunities for access to other experiences; enables the emergence of alternatives for the elements that seek to subjugate students to the condition of individuals with few signs of transformation of their experienced contexts are replaced by a critical thinking resistant to the inequalities so naturalized by modern rationality; and takes diversity as a rich opportunity of human growth and not as an element that hinders schooling.

As a way of confronting indolent reason, Sousa Santos (2006; 2007) presents us the cosmopolitan reason, i.e., an alternative way of thinking that promotes the recognition/valuation of existing knowledge/experiences, but are rendered invisible by modern rationality, as well as establishing actions for them to gain visibility/recognition in the social fabric, supported by the Sociology of Absences and Emergencies and by the translation process.

The Sociology of Absences presents the possibility of creation of new way of looking at the social reality to understand/recognize many knowledge/experiences considered invisible/nonexistent by indolent reason. On the other hand, the Sociology of Emergencies undertakes efforts to ensure that all this production can be visible and recognized as useful to solve many modern problems, but without modern solutions (Sousa Santos, 2008). The Sociology of Absences aims to reveal/give visibility to certain production that was resigned as ignorant and residual, while the Sociology of Emergencies acts on this scenario to highlight the potentialities, possibilities, signs, or clues, through a movement of symbolic expansion of knowledge, practices, and agents.

Sousa Santos (2008) explains that these two sociologies shall bring a plurality of knowledge that can potentialize a decent life for people who live without alternatives of existence, requiring that these knowledges be translated in each other, i.e., that they seek convergence/divergence points to account for the complexity of human life in society. This translation of experiences/knowledge and awareness of the possibilities that this production can point out to the challenges of social life, to Sousa Santos (2006), end up promoting alternative thoughts to many situations that seem to have no alternatives to indolent reason.

In the field of Education, this cosmopolitan line of thinking brings possibilities/alternatives to the school daily experiences challenged with the enrollment of students with disabilities, global development disorders, and high-potential/giftedness when actions, knowledge, and teaching practices not recognized/valued by indolent reason start to incorporate the pedagogical work of schools. While indolent reason excels in solitary actions in school daily experiences, cosmopolitan reason reiterates the importance of solidarity actions in the mediation of knowledge permeated by assumptions of equality/difference.

The development of solidarity actions promote the translation of knowledge/experiences of pedagogues and teachers for pedagogical inventiveness; recalls the importance of subjectivizing the student as an individual with rights and knowledge; establishes the teacher/pedagogue as a researcher of new different knowledges and actions; strengthens dialogue and cooperation; restores the social function of school; and ruptures with the idea that the education professional is simply a practical person who does not search for enhancing their pedagogical actions with theoretical perspectives.

In this scenario, if indolent reason enhances feelings of competitiveness and isolation in the school, presenting pedagogues and teachers as antagonistic individuals and creating the idea that public schools cannot fulfill their social function (producing, with this movement, a vast waste of knowledge and experience), cosmopolitan reason allows for a perspective of bets and opportunities so that individuals acting in schools may reflect that:

[...] this dimension of post-modern knowledge brings immense potential for educational thinking and practice in that it shall allow the valuing of creative imagination of teachers and students, as well as their actions, today marginalized for being punctual, recognizing their potential for recognition and multiplication due to its qualitative characteristics (Oliveira, 2006, p. 34).

Sousa Santos (20s06) discusses the importance of moving from a state of convinving/naturalization of differences/social inequalities and overcome certain resistance to changes so that we can bet on the renewal of critical theories and social reemancipation. These transformations will not happen through conformist subjectivities, but, on the contrary, through rebel subjectivities, which are lines of thought and action that seek for new ways of organizing society (making it more inclusive), an action nourished by the fight in favor of historic changes aimed at the reification of the present (in conjunction with various temporalities), without abandoning a project for the future. In other words, the rebel subjectivities present possibilities so we do not fall into a “[...] celebration of what exists because there is nothing beyond,” i.e., a cynical reason (Sousa Santos, 2007, p.58).

Through rebel subjectivities, it is possible to discuss how indolent reason creates abyssal lines to divide the social context in two parts: the existing and the non-existing. The universe on this side of the line (the existing) aggregates the reality it manages to explain; while the other side of the line (the non-existing) brings the discarded realities in which live misery, religious cultures not legitimized, marginalized sexual orientations, gender relations, beliefs, individuals not empowered to learn, older adults, and those who are outside the media and fashion. In the words of Sousa Santos (2007, p. 1-2), nonexistence “[...] means not existing under any form of being relevant or understandable. Everything that is produced as nonexistent is radically excluded because remains outside the universe that the very accepted conception of inclusion considers being the Other.”

As Sousa Santos (2006, p. 281) argues, indolent reason divides the social reality on a visible side and an invisible one, and, with that, it creates distanced expectations for the present and the future. Everything that falls into the invisible side of the abyssal lines is forgotten in the present and left to be resolved in the future. Thus, the idea that the future is an infinite time is naturalized, expanding it too widely. Hence, experiences and knowledge that could refer to these concerns at the present time are wasted.

The abyssal lines, to constitute both the visible and invisible sides, work with several monocultures. The first: monoculture of scientific knowledge - science becomes the only rationality recognized as valid and is unable to dialogue with other knowledge. The second: monoculture of linear time - favors an agile time that leads people to compete with each other and individualize themselves. The third: naturalization of differences. “[...] We do not know how to think differences with equality; differences are always unequal” (Sousa Santos, 2007, p. 30). Thus, an asymmetric relationship is nourished between people, making them believe that some are better than others. The fourth: the dominant scale - all that is local is discarded, because those who are valued seek grounding in the ideal of universalism and globalization. The fifth: the monoculture of capitalist productivism - here, we value measured production, creating the idea that “[...] everything that is not productive in this context is considered unproductive or sterile [...] [because] the way to produce absence is with the lack of productivity” (Sousa Santos, 2007, p. 32).

These five monocultures created barriers for Special Education in the perspective of school inclusion. In the initial teacher training, gaps are left on the education of students to be filled in the future by continued training. Many training agencies favor the reduction of the educator’s training time, postponing to the future discussions that should be encouraged in the present. The work with mediation for the appropriation of knowledge lack the bases that support this process as a political and ethical act. In the school context, we have a lack of experience on how the students formulate their concepts and the assumption of assessment as a critical and reflective process on the students’ learning and teachers’ didactic. Opposed to this reality, Pimenta (2005) argues that, to develop a work with quality, teachers need to experience training experiences that link the fundamentals of Education with the mastery of the knowledge to be worked and critical reflection of the didactics used, since they are major movements to discuss quality education for all students.

To fight abyssal thinking, Sousa Santos (2008) defends the need for a post abyssal thought, i.e., a “non-directive” rationality that seeks to break with forms of thought and action that promote exclusion, denial of the other, and invisibility of non-hegemonic knowledge/experiences. In short, it is a thought/action capable of bringing to the visible side everything that was deemed invisible by abyssal thinking, causing monocultures to be replaced by ecologies. For Sousa Santos (2007, p. 39), it means “[...] to create another way to understand, another way to articulate knowledge, practices, collective action [and] to articulate collective subjects” to affect the abyssal lines produced by monocultures of indolent reason.

In the field of Education, the development of rebel subjectivities and post abyssal thoughts can thicken the movements that problematize school inclusion as a social right and search for more open curricular sistematizations to dialogue with the appropriation of common and specific knowledge to individuals with compromises (physical, psychic, sensory, or intellectual), and those with high-potential/giftedness as well as helping Education professionals tackle the materialization of the abyssal thinking that forces the coexistence of a visible and an invisible side within the same daily experiences. On the visible side, students who have results within the valued standards are included and, in second place are those who the school does not find sense in teaching or having them as producers of knowledge. This scenario corroborates the projection of a look of disbelief on the processes of education, destroying actions and creating the feeling that there is no reason to invest in Education because the students are not able to learn or are not interested in learning. With this, many teachers deem futile to invest in individuals considered unable to produce knowledge.

In the case of the schooling of students from Special Education, the challenge, therefore, is to seek a post abyssal thought that subjectivize these students as historical and social individuals entitled to participate in the knowledge worked in the school curricula. By moving the abyssal lines, we are fighting for Education professionals to have the necessary support to deal with the learning needs of people who, for many years, were forbidden to participate in the educational process. To do so, it is necessary to constantly discuss the school curricula to eradicate the emergence of abyssal lines formed inside the school or even inside the classroom.

Sousa Santos (2006) warns that, to combat indolent reason and all its forms of manifestation in the social fabric, it is necessary to learn to value leads, embryonic movements, and clues, because the renewal of critical theory and the reinvention of social reemancipation is a negotiated and reflective process and we need to keep track of macro- and micro-conquests. Given that, for the author, we must learn to work with the idea of “not-yet,” understood as that which “not-yet” exists, but is emerging and giving us a sign for the future. This movement makes us think that, in the field of Education, we live, daily, between “yes” and “no,” and how much we grew apart from the processes and trajectories followed by the people when faced with the need to learn, thus not following the clues and evidence of how they produce this construct.

In the case of Special Education, changes have occurred, but indolent reason seeks to convince us that they do not exist and all efforts were in vain. With the enrollment of these students in schools, a diversity of knowledge and experience has been established. As says Sousa Santos (2008), the point is to learn to translate these movements in other actions to be strengthened. The translation symbolizes the dialogue between different knowledge to keep their approaches and distances in an attempt of collaboration among different knowledge to other social senses. It is the search for intelligibility, coherence, and articulation in a world enriched by multiplicity and diversity of knowledge and experiences.

[...] translation is a process by which we create and make sense of a world that does not really have a unique meaning, as it is a meaning for all of us. It cannot be a sense that is distributed, created, designed, [...] taxed [...]. It is a distinct process [...] to create a new conception of human dignity and consciousness [...]. [In this perspective, translation means] to try to find out what a movement [...] and other have in common [...], which are the distinctions and similarities [...]. It is necessary to create intelligibility without destroying diversity (Sousa Santos, 2007, p. 39-41).

In the daily routine of schools, the invitation we make is to translate the arts of making of teachers and students for the production of emancipative knowledge. We shall unveil, thus, the obstacles that seek a hierarchical situation in this construction. We shall cross the lines of thought to establish a school curriculum that seeks to value the human being. The lines that shall be tied to the constitution of this movement need to be sewn with dialogue, nurtured by the recognition of difference and equality.

Curriculum and Special Education: mediation and appropriation of knowledge

In this second part of the text, we present an experience of continued training developed with Basic Education teachers who work in Elementary School. This is a study powered by assumptions of collaborative and critic action research that, according to Franco (2005), Pimenta (2005) and Jesus (2008), is configured as a methodology that allows the researcher to simultaneously investigate/interpret the field searched, but also collaborate to the group involved in the research for present changes in their daily lives, triggering formation processes that encourage critical reflection of their practice.

One of the fundamental assumptions of any form of action research is the belief that research and action can and must walk together. Walking together does not mean just a temporal coincidence, but essentially a dialectic articulation of these two spaces: doing and researching; doing while researching and researching while doing (Franco; Lisita, 2004, p. 15).

Supported in this methodological perspective, the study was conducted from March to October 2014, promoting five spacetimes involving training, dealing with, daily, around 100 teachers. In one of these training spaces (a morning of June 2014), we brought the theorizing of Boaventura de Sousa Santos as a point of analysis for critical reflections on the relationship between school curricula and processes of inclusion of students with disabilities, global development and high-potential/giftedness, starting by offering a brief biography of the author and the reasons that led us to take him as a theoretical basis to substantiate the reflections to be made.

Boaventura de Sousa Santos was brought as theoretical support to contribute to the problematizations, for arguing in favor of a cognitive justice among knowledges, to achieve a renewal of critical theory and social reemancipation. Thus, it could help us make crossings between the school curriculum and the education of students with disabilities, global development disorders and high-potential/giftedness in school inclusion processes, since, as we talked about individuals for a long time rendered invisible by educational policies and with learning needs that conflict with the curricula (often limited to knowledge defined a priori), we found, in the author’s arguments, possibilities to make the needs of those students visible as well as their processes of appropriation of knowledge and valuing of this movement.

Therefore, we started to reflect on questions that cross the processes of education of students with disabilities, global development disorders, and high-potential/giftedness, in the light of the contributions by Sousa Santos (2006; 2007), starting with three central questions regarding Special Education policies in the context of school inclusion: the emblematic processes of access, permanence, and appropriation of knowledge. We presented data on the flow of enrollment of students with disabilities, global development disorders and high-potential/giftedness, having as reference the Census of Basic Education Schools of the state of Espírito Santo, as presented in Table 1.

Table 1: Census of Basic Education Schools of the of the state of Espírito Santo, Brazil 

2007 1,150 2 5,917 406 7,475
2008 1,706 3 9,635 514 11,858
2009 1,387 4 5,876 433 7,700
2010 2,611 12 10,659 581 13,863
2011 3,245 14 10,069 512 13,840
2012 3,830 51 12,739 739 17,359
2013 4,183 72 13,175 744 18,174
2014 4,879 90 14,248 749 19,966
2015 5,359 108 15,885 805 22,157

Source: Secretaria de Estado da Educação do Espírito Santo [Department of Education of the State of Espírito Santo] (2014).

We reflected on the increase of enrollment of students with disabilities, global development disorders and high-potential/giftedness in the state of Espírito Santo, a situation that highlights advances in the fight for access of these individuals to common schools. This information helped the teachers to reflect that there are advances in the context of access policies for students to daily school living, even if this process still has challenges to be overcome.

Then, we started to reflect on the policies of permanence, and the group could think that although there are challenges, various public policies are being implemented, both in teacher training and formation of support professionals specialized in the systematization of programs/projects for schools to approach an inclusive perspective.

When we present the third axis that passes through Special Education policies in the perspective of school inclusion - the involvement of students in school curricula -, the group involved in the formation thought that, if we can talk about advances in access and permanence policies, the issues involving the appropriation of knowledge for these students can be considered a significant challenge to teaching practices, a situation that reinforces the need for critical reflection on the school curricula.

Considering this scenario, we brought the critical reflection by Sousa Santos (2006; 2007) that concerns modern thought, understanding it as indolent. We asked the teachers: what do you understand by indolence? They have demonstrated unfamiliarity with the term. We highlighted the analysis made by the author of scientific knowledge, when it is put as true, unique, disciplinarian, and totalitarian, neglecting many other knowledges historically constituted by humanity. We took this opportunity to problematize how this rationality affects the organization (and practice) of curricula, placing some types of knowledge at the top of legitimacy, while many others are negated or rendered invisible.

Teachers might think that, with indolent reason, the school curricula are constituted by knowledge that represent the hegemonic social groups, while other knowledge are denied, thus, not answering to many specific human characteristics and needs that do not fit the social standard valued. From the theoretical contributions by Sousa Santos (2006; 2007), the teachers signaled how indolent reason sustains the traditional perspective of the curriculum, discarding the learning needs, life and academic trajectories, and knowledge that these disadvantaged groups appropriated themselves in daily living.

Using the memory of traditional theory of curriculum, we sought to approximate this theoretical perspective from indolent reason, also referring to the studies by Goodson (1995) and Apple (2006), when they point out that the traditional theory summarizes the curricula as pasteurized, content-focused, against plurality, and anti-democratic knowledge, which arrive ready to schools, forcing teachers to organize their pedagogical work from the following assumptions: what to teach, how to teach, and how to assess - a situation that does not consider the real students in classrooms. Thus, we found opportunities to say that indolent reason sustains the traditional perspective of curriculum, transforming it into a matter of organization or, as Silva (2005, p. 24) would say, in the traditional design, “[...] the curriculum is simply mechanical.”

Thus, we started to think with the teachers on the following assumption: the legacy of traditional theories (sustained by indolent reason) is the idea that the curriculum is ready and is neutral. In it, there is nothing to be questioned. Then, we directed the following question to the group to reflect on: how does indolent reason influence the schooling of students from Special Education? A teacher signaled that such reason - when composing legitimate and illegitimate knowledge - awakens the idea that students with disabilities are unable to learn, therefore, they cannot be contemplated by the school curricula, requiring activities that are simpler, out of context, and limited to the games, paintings, drawings, and recognition of letters of the alphabet.

With the development of training, we demonstrated that, in traditional theories, “[...]the prescriptive nature of the curriculum is emphasized, [...]. We learn in school, not just what we need to know to enter the productive world, but codes from which we shall act in society” (Lopes; Macedo, 2011, p. 26-27). Therefore, what should be taught to students was taken from the broader cultural stock selection of the society, discarding many other knowledges and experiences. From there, we resumed what we already talked with the group regarding the concerns of Boaventura de Sousa Santos (2006; 2007; 2008) about modern rationality and how it influenced the composition of the school curricula in the traditional perspective.

We found loopholes to discuss how much indolent reason produced abyssal lines at school (bringing another concept of the author to the debate) because it divided the school daily routine into a visible and an invisible side. In the visible side were the young students who sought to adequate themselves to the curricular proposals developed to a standard student. In the invisible side were those considered as the target audience of Special Education. We took this opportunity to reflect on how ideas, such as school adequacy and adaptation, were sustained by indolent reason, since they brought the assumption that, for these students, it was necessary to develop a curriculum that was more impoverished, simple, and lacking some contents, as they are unable to learn. We asked to the group: can we find indolent reason drawing abyssal lines here, in school?

I wanted to make a metaphor from your words. Do you know when a person gets tired of a certain clothing item and decided to donate it to you? You wear the item that needed to be adapted to your body. When someone looks and praises, how do we answer? That person gave it to me. That item will never be mine, because it reminds me of another. It is his! It is the same with adaptation. The so-called “adapted” knowledge does not belong to the person, because it did not go through him/her. It belongs to someone else. Not him/her. Thus, I believe you are right. Knowledge needs to be part of the person to help him/her understand the world, otherwise, he/she will think to have learned and later will not remember the teachings any more (testimony from one of the teachers).

There was a plurality of thoughts and reactions: some more open to dialogue, others more closed. A teacher reported that, in a classroom of 2nd grade of elementary school, there was the case of a student with multiple disabilities that did not present articulated speech, used a wheelchair, was able to perform only a few movements with her body and would not give any feedback from what was taught to the class. Then she said: “Then what? What should we do? Indolent reason wants to convince us that the curriculum cannot include this girl, therefore, it is socialization and nothing else.”

We started to think on the relevance of cosmopolitan reason for matters brought by the teacher, as the importance of training investments that allowed teachers to know more about the use of assistive technologies and alternative communication was clear, but also the creation of strategies for accessibility to the curriculum through diverse pedagogical practices, in addition to establishment of networks of solidarity at school to strengthen the actions of teachers and pedagogues and the approach of specialized educational services with the actions performed at regular classrooms. For Perticari (apud Baptista, 2007), the presence of students with different learning paths can bring benefits to the whole school, as long as it recognizes how much this question can be configured as a possibility of research and production of knowledge for teachers and a rich opportunity to create mechanisms to make knowledge something accessible for everyone.

Continuing the reflections by Sousa Santos (2008) regarding the relationships between the school curricula and the education of students with disabilities, global development disorders and high-potential/giftedness, we presented the possibilities that the Sociologies of Absences and Emergencies brought to fight indolent reason. The teachers got curious to know more about these two categories. We highlighted that, while the first referred to the recognition of knowledge/experiences produced as absent/non-existing by indolent reason, the second created conditions for this production to gain space in the social context.

We began to reflect on knowledge/experiences that could achieve visibility in schools through the Sociology of Absence, gaining prominence in the teachers’ speeches: knowledge/needs brought by students that needed to compose the school curricula; knowledge/trajectories of specialized teachers, since they were poorly heard in schools; knowledge/experiences accumulated by regular classroom teachers, which seemed to fade in the presence of students with disabilities; among many others the group was able to point out.

In this same context, teachers involved in continued training kept on thinking, bringing the Sociology of Emergencies to the debate, remembering how it could act on the educational work in the schooling of students with disabilities, global development disorders, and high-potential/giftedness. They pointed out that, through this insurgent sociology, it was possible to create actions in schools to translate the knowledge and actions of regular classroom teachers, Special Education teacher, and pedagogues into the planning/mediation of pedagogic practices that favor students in school curricula as well as the assumption of resources from a multifunctional room and specialized educational care as strategies capable of strengthening the development of collaborative actions among school professionals.

This debate allowed us to reflect with teachers that the Sociologies of Absences and Emergencies put us in touch with many knowledges and experiences named “ecologies” by Sousa Santos (2007, p. 39). Through them, it is possible to develop a post abyssal thinking that seeks “[...] to create another way to understand, another way to articulate knowledge, practices, collective action [and] to articulate collective subjects” to affect the abyssal lines produced by the monocultures of indolent reason. In the case of knowledge ecology, “[...] science comes not as monoculture, but as part of a broader knowledge ecology” (Sousa Santos, 2007, p. 31).

With recognition ecology, we can identify human differences without hierarchies. For Sousa Santos (2007, p. 31), “[...] we should only accept the differences remaining after hierarchies are discarded.” With trans-scale ecology, it is possible to articulate global, national, and local experiences. With productivity ecology, in its turn, we may recognize that, if human beings are both equal and different from others, they also produce distinguished needs, experiences, and collective knowledge.

As we sought approaches between the concepts produced by Sousa Santos (2007) and the issues that pertain to the school curriculum and Special Education during the entire training, teachers could reflect that the existence of these ecologies brings several contributions to the inclusion of students supported by the Special Education mode in the regular school. The recognition that we have a plurality of knowledge points to a dialogical relationship between students and teachers, since both are subjectivized as individuals of knowledge, reinforcing the understanding that we can legitimize the common and specific knowledges of students in the school curriculum.

Valuing differences without hierarchies opens horizons for strengthening the right to Education as inalienable. The trans-scale ecology indicates that people require different times for the production of concepts on social life. Regarding ecology of differences, it recognizes that the role of Education is to provide the meeting of unique individuals with real stories of existence, taking advantage of this movement to enhance the educational act.

To incorporate these ecologies in the school context, we discussed how important it is to defend the training of educators who put in suspension perspectives that seek to convince them that Education does not produce impact on the development of people; that the relationship between teachers and students is extremely shaken to the point of not being possible to talk about teaching and learning; that it is a naturalized fact that students leave school without producing concepts that explain human life in society. These ecologies set the foundations for us to fight the inequality and exclusion processes to which those who do not fit into the socially desired patterns are subjected. For Sousa Santos (2006), while inequality happens through the subordinate integration of a person in relation to the other, exclusion is the elimination or total invisibilization of the individual.

In the case of schooling of students with disabilities, global development disorders, and high-potential/giftedness, depending on the existential condition of the individual, he/she can experience situations of disadvantage or be removed from the process. Some are excluded for finding difficulties to get into school. Others are subjected to subordinated participation, i.e., they are enrolled, but without the necessary condition to stay in the school and have access to knowledge.

In the system of inequality, belonging happens with subordinated integration, while in the exclusion system, belonging is defined by exclusion. Inequality implies a hierarchical system of social integration. Who is underneath is inside, and his/her presence is indispensable. On the contrary, exclusion is also based on a hierarchical system, but dominated by the principle of segregation: the way someone is excluded defines how he/she belongs. Who is underneath, is out [...]. If inequality is a socioeconomic phenomenon, exclusion is, above all, a cultural and social phenomenon, a phenomenon of civilization. It is a historical process through which a culture, via a truth speech, creates the interdict and rejects him [...]. The disqualification as inferior, crazy, criminal, or perverted consolidates exclusion and is personal dangerousness that justifies this exclusion (Sousa Santos, 2006, p. 280-281).

The reflections raised by Sousa Santos (2006, 2007) on fighting modern rationality through the Sociologies of Absences and Emergencies opened possibilities for teachers to analyze the traditional theory of curriculum one more time and reflect on the assumptions of critical theory. In the course of the discussions, we highlighted the foundations of Critical Theory, saying that, to this perspective, the curriculum was questioned not as an innocent and neutral instrument of disinterested knowledge transmission, but designed as an artifact that produces specific individual and social identities (Moreira; Silva, 2008).

In this sense, we exposed the teachers to three questions that we then started to problematize from critical theory: ideologies, power relations, and culture. The first acts in a discriminatory way, since it leads people of subordinate classes into submission and obedience, while people from the ruling classes learn to command and control. The second (power) “[...] manifests itself through the dividing lines between different social groups in terms of class, ethnicity, gender etc. These divisions constitute both the source and the result of power relations” (Moreira; Silva, 2008, p. 29). Regarding culture, “[...] it is not seen as an inert and static set of values and knowledge to be transmitted in a non-problematic way to a new generation, neither does it exist in a unitary and homogeneous way” (Moreira; Silva, 2008, p. 26).

To discuss critical theory with teachers gave us the opportunity to talk of some questions posed to traditional theory by the Sociologies of Absences and Emergencies, because, through them, we stopped to think: why are some aspects of social culture taught as if they represent the entire society? What are the consequences of the legitimization of these aspects for society as a whole? Questions such as these allowed us to conclude that the curriculum needed to be understood as “[...] a complicated conversation of every individual with the world and with himself” (Lopes; Macedo, 2011, p. 35), since, with critical theories, it was proposed that the curriculum should no longer be designed as an established document, but rather replaced by a design that incorporated activities that allowed students to understand their own world-of-life (Lopes; Macedo, 2011).

To further the debate, we brought some contributions by Carvalho (2011), which relates affections to the school curricula by saying that, when we speak of affection, the idea that always comes to our mind is that of liking someone; however, the author broadened its meaning to think on the relation between affection and being affected. Therefore, the challenge was to create learning contexts that affected students, since the task of the school is to develop in the student a certain autonomy of their relationship with knowledge, recognizing that the teacher can be a contributor/mediator of this process. The debate made the group of teachers engage once again with Sousa Santos (2006, 2007), when discussing the need for working with the ecologies, replacing the monocultural thought, and developing rebel subjectivities to promote new lines of thought and action to work with the assumptions of critical theory in schools. The teachers also brought their own contributions. One of them said:

[...] I had not really stopped to think about this idea of affections and how they are put to the invisible side of the abyssal lines, when we mediate the teaching-learning process in schools, as Boaventura de Sousa Santos would say. The issue of adaptation refers to the idea of a ready curriculum. Now, a resume curriculum that affects opens the possibility for it to be built on the teacher-student relationship.

We reaffirmed that we understood that the curriculum needed to be seen as a dialogical relationship between what we already accumulated, the knowledge rendered invisible, the students’ and teachers’ experiences, and the context in which the school was inserted.

We brought Sousa Santos (2008) to the debate again, as he reiterates the need for us to break with the idea of difference as a synonym for inequality and exclusion. We took this opportunity to resume the presumption that school inclusion does not imply working with a minimum curriculum, but actually having a curriculum that has meaning for students and teachers. We discussed how much we depend on textbooks and reported how important it was to enhance the initial and continued training of teachers.

Thus, a teacher said that, if we were used to talk about learning difficulties, we should also think if we did not have teaching difficulties. An intern contributed to the discussion by saying:

These trainings have helped us to think about many things. Since the training on literacy and, now, this one on curriculum, they have helped me to pay more attention to Martinha - the student with Down syndrome that I monitor. I see that the interventions have been more significant and with that she has advanced. I try to value the knowledge that she has already produced and I want to challenge her to go further in her teaching-learning process.

We made connections between the discussions and critical theory reasoning. Finalizing contributions from this curricular perspective, we were able to think, from it and the thought by Sousa Santos (2006), how important it is that we break with the idea of a standard student for the appropriation of knowledge mediated in school and also think the human as a creative individual capable of being critical of himself, of others, and of their productions. Thus, this individual may problematize the unequal access to knowledge, the forces that affect the selection of what is taught in schools, and the struggles for social divisions to be fought through the educational work and how much we need to fight for social justice, but also for cognitive justice, so that knowledge can be owned and produced (Sousa Santos, 2007).

The discussions made in the training helped us rescue the question of right to Education which, according to Silva (2005), can only be recognized as a right of all to the extent that we recognize and value the different existing cultures, as the curricula are vehicles that produce and build meanings, therefore being cultural practices. In this scenario, we brought back the indolent reason discussed by Sousa Santos (2007), questioning that many rights that were cast aside to the invisible side by modern thought, are now being allocated as visible by cosmopolitan rationality.

The teachers said they left the training understanding the importance of valuing different perspectives of knowledge, but the system demanded them to work from a fixed curriculum, as it is from it that large scale evaluations, for example, are developed. They asked how they could validate some forms of knowledge, without pruning the students’ learning. As one of the teachers said: “[...] I understand what you say, but I am afraid to level the children down and get used to the little contributions they will bring, when they can do better.” We explained that an articulated pedagogical work shall accompany this process and help us wind up students in such a way they can make their own learning path. We also emphasized that, to not fall into the trap of level the student down, we should constantly study, research, propose, and intervene.

Final Considerations

Throughout this study, we sought to bring the thoughts of Boaventura de Sousa Santos to the field of Special Education. Given this, we consolidated our thoughts in an experience of continued training for Basic Education teachers. We talked about the schooling of students of Special Education, articulated to the assumptions of the Sociologies of Absences and Emergencies, translation, and abyssal and post abyssal thought. These reflections made us think that what does not exist is culturally produced by society and, to contradict these assumptions, we brought the reflection to the field of knowledge recognition ecologies.

According to Sousa Santos (2006), it is of utmost importance to understand that the fact that one single knowledge does not exist highlights, more than ever, the need to seek ways to make sure that these different knowledges are articulated and related, so that the present is indeed seen and observed, and, with that, we do not leave for the future actions that, if performed today, shall bring significant results.

The author’s reflections also helped us to understand (during training) that it is possible to constitute movements of interactions/relationships between teachers to enhance the processes of schooling of students with disabilities, global development disorders, and high-potential/giftedness, highlighting the importance of investing in continued training and the articulation of the human and material resources available in schools, among other issues, to think of more inclusive schools.

In this way, we focused our look to allow us to “[...] establish a relationship of causality [...]” (Arretche, 2001, p. 31) between the program or policy under analysis and its results. In addition to this, we hope that this study becomes an essential object to help us make decisions and seek to improve, or even restructure, the actions implemented as absolute truths (Belloni et al., 2001).

Translated from portuguese by Tikinet Edição Ltda.


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2In the state of Espírito Santo, Brazil, the CAEEs located in philanthropic institutions do not offer regular education, only specialized educational care for the contrary period. Thus, private schools refer to private Elementary and High Schools.

Received: September 01, 2016; Accepted: April 23, 2017

Alexandro Braga Vieira is an associate professor of the Education Center - Department of Education, Politics and Society (DEPS), and professor of the Graduate Program in Education, Basic Education and Teacher Training of the Center for Agricultural Sciences and Engineering (CCAE) of the Federal University of Espírito Santo (UFES). Coordinator of the Graduate Program of Professional Master’s in Education of the Education Center of UFES. He is a PhD and has a postdoctoral degree in Education by UFES. E-mail:

Ines de Oliveira Ramos is an associate professor and head of the Department of Education Theories and Educational Practices (DTEPE) of the Education Center of the Federal University of Espírito Santo (UFES). She is a Master and PhD in Education by UFES. E-mail:

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