Daily Archives: November 7, 2012

November 8: Dunce Day

When I first started looking up holidays for November 8, I thought there was no way I’d do a post on something called Dunce Day. I mean, what are you supposed to do? Act stupid? Hand someone a present and tell them: “it’s Dunce Day, so I thought of you?”

Then I  stumbled across the background to this day, and I simply had to share.

On this day in 1308 a highly respected Catholic scholar known as Duns Scotus (born in Duns, Scotland) passed away. This man was in no way what we consider a dunce today. In fact, he was extremely respected and well read, and he wrote extensively. Those who followed his school of thought frequently wore tall pointed caps and were known as Scotists, Duns, or Dunsmen.

However, in the 16th century, these followers opposed the “New Learning” of Renaissance humanists. As humanism became predominant, “Duns” or “dunce” became a rude epithet for anyone who refused to learn something new. This lead to the image we now have when we think of the word dunce — a young student standing in the corner in shame with a pointed dunce cap proclaiming his ignorance to all.

Now  that you know all that, I suggest celebrating Dunce Day by learning something new (and this doesn’t count! Do your own work!).

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”

Proverbs 1:7