Not to be confused with National Dance Day, November 8 is National Dunce Day. This annual “holiday” marks the anniversary of the death of philosopher, author and theologian, John Duns Scotus.
John Duns Scotus
Scotus, known as the Subtle Doctor, was also the originator of the “duns cap” or Dunce Cap. Scotus believed that pointed, conical-shaped caps worn on top of the head, would increase learning potential by funneling knowledge into students’ brains. Afterall, wizards wore pointy caps, right? Scotus, who died on this day in 1308, was beatified by the Catholic Church in 1993.
While dunce caps were originally associated with learning, they eventually took on an entirely different meaning. Associated with stupidity and ignorance, dunce caps were often used in schools to embarrass or humiliate students who had misbehaved or were slow learners. These children were usually sent to the corner wearing a ginormous, cone-shaped dunce cap with the letter "D" on it while the other students in the room would mock and make fun of them.
While today celebrates one of the most important theologians and philosophers from the High Middle Ages, hats off to the discontinued use of the demeaning dunce cap.