National Dunce Day

Many people are familiar with the term “dunce,” a term that has historically been used to describe someone who was a “slow learner.” People may also be familiar with “dunce caps,” a symbol of idiocy that was used for decades as punishment for children who acted up in class.

At least, that’s what cartoons and other pop culture sources would have us believe. However, what few people realize is that the word dunce and the dunce cap can actually be attributed to the Scottish philosopher, John Duns Scotus.

He was a Christian philosopher and theologian during the Middle Ages who made influential contributions to natural theology, ethics, and metaphysics. Anyone who wants to learn more about his contributions and his ideas simply has to observe National Dunce Day on the 8th of November every year.

The History Of National Dunce Day

This holiday is observed on the day that John Duns Scotus died in 1308. Although not much more is known about this holiday, there is quite a lot known about Mr. Scotus. He was a Scottish Catholic priest, university professor, theologian, and philosopher. Throughout his life, he had a huge impact on both secular and Catholic thought.

What does Mr. Scotus’s work on theology have to do with National Dunce Day? Well, it’s because Duns Scotus recommended wearing conical hats to stimulate a person’s thought. In effect, a literal “thinking cap.”

During the 16th century, the word “dunce” would be used to describe a follower of Duns Scotus who engaged in pedantry or who was considered to be a fool. The dunce cap would be shown in several 18th-century sources, including The New England Primer. In 1840, Charles Dickens mentioned the term in his novel The Old Curiosity Shop.

In Looney Tunes cartoons, the “dunce cap” would become a popular trope to describe an unruly or unintelligent child. Of course, it now belongs to the “Dead Horse Trope,” meaning that it has fallen out of use in modern cartoons and is now seen as old-fashioned or trite.

Observing National Dunce Day

We’re not sure how this holiday is supposed to be observed. We don’t think people are expected to wear a dunce cap or anything, so our advice would be for people to just observe this day as they would any other day of the year.

They can spend time with friends and family members, enjoy good food, and just have a good day. People interested in learning more about John Duns Scotus can take the time to do so. And people can spread the word about this day using the hashtag #NationalDunceDay online.

When is it?
This year (2024)
November 8 Friday
Next year (2025)
November 8 Saturday
Last year (2023)
November 8 Wednesday
Weird & Obscure