The Gentile Reform and the Fascist period
During the Fascist period, the philosopher and Normalista Giovanni Gentile will leave a new and lasting mark on the Normale. These are difficult years, marked by reaction and repression; but they are also the years of Paul Oskar Kristeller, Aldo Capitini and Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.
With the new regulations of 1927 the Normale no longer had the function of qualifying students as teachers, while maintaining that of "preparing students for teaching in secondary schools and for the examinations which award qualifications for such teaching" and of promoting postgraduate studies, accessible by all graduates at national level: this was the first doctorate course established in Italy.
Nationalist propaganda also took hold within the Normale of Pisa and the control of the Regime became increasingly more invasive, up until the first serious episode of repression, with the arrest in 1928 of three Normalisti for anti-Fascist activity. In order to deal with the disturbances caused by the political events and the decline of the Scuola, which had increasingly fewer students, the philosopher Giovanni Gentile, a Normalista and ideologue of the Regime, was nominated as commissioner; he was later to become Director of the Normale, from 1936.
Gentile carried out a complete revision of the Normale, so that it would acquire a structure more in keeping with its national importance, including the expansion of the site and a considerable increase in the number of students and internal activities. His authority, together with the consensus of the Regime, allowed him to find means and collaboration for his project. Meanwhile, the relationship between the State and the Church inaugurated by the Lateran Pacts facilitated negotiations with the Archbishopric to obtain the availability of the Palazzo Puteano, which, together with that of the Timpano, would later be used to house the young Normalisti while the expansion of the Palazzo della Carovana took place.
The Normale Gentiliana, recognized by the Royal Decree of 28th July 1932, was inaugurated on 10th December. Equipped with a new Statute, it became an independent higher education institution, albeit still connected to the University of Pisa, and acquired legal status and administrative, educational and disciplinary autonomy.
The fundamental aims of the Scuola became two: to train teachers of secondary schools and to promote, by means of postgraduate studies, a high-level scientific and literary culture. However, the Normale, in confirmation of its uniqueness within the Italian educational system, was enlarged above all to educate an increasingly more carefully selected élite.
These were very difficult years for the community of the Normale, often submitted to extremely harsh political control. The twenty years of Fascism was, however, also the period in which the German Jewish historian of philosophy Paul Oskar Kristeller taught at the Normale (appointed at the Normale by Gentile himself, but subsequently forced to flee Italy) and in which the theorist of non-violence Aldo Capitini and Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, a future member of the Resistenza and President of the Italian Repubblica, studied.