Dunce

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Dunce cap)
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Dunce is a mild insult in English meaning "a person who is slow at learning or stupid". The etymology given by Richard Stanyhurst is that the word is derived from the name of the Scottish Scholastic theologian and philosopher John Duns Scotus.[1]

Dunce cap[edit]

A young boy wearing a dunce cap in class, from a staged photo c. 1906
1828 engraving showing a boy standing on a stool wearing a dunce cap with the ears of an ass.
1828 engraving showing a boy standing on a stool wearing a dunce cap with the ears of an ass.

A dunce cap, also variously known as a dunce hat, dunce's cap or dunce's hat, is a pointed hat, formerly used as an article of discipline in schools in Europe and the United States especially in the 19th and early 20th centuries for children who were disruptive or were considered slow in learning.[2][3] In the 19th century, it was seen by some as degrading: in 1831, children's book author Sidney Babcock wrote of the dunce cap as debasing and harsh, and in 1899, historian Alice Morse Earle compared it to other forms of school discipline she saw as degrading and outdated. It became unpopular in the early 20th century.[4] Some American schools still permitted caps as late as the 1950s, however, and it was more recently banned in a number of areas in England and Wales in 2010.[5][6] In modern pedagogy, punishments like dunce caps have fallen out of favor:[7] by 1927 an editorial in the Educational Research Bulletin stated, "The rod and the cap were not eminently successful... we have our doubts about exclusion being the solution to the problem.... High scholarship is not produced by students who have their curiosity stifled by their teachers. Curiosity must be stimulated if scholarship is desired, and sympathy is essential to this stimulation."[8]

According to The Straight Dope, Duns Scotus recommended the wearing of conical hats to stimulate the brain – so-called "thinking caps".[9] The Oxford English Dictionary (3rd edition) cites mid-16th century examples of the term dunce used to describe a follower of Duns Scotus, a person engaged in ridiculous pedantry, or a person regarded as a "fool" or "dimwit".[10] A visual depiction of the hat was first shown in the 1727 edition of The New England Primer[4] and the term dunce's cap is recorded as early as 1791.[10] The first use of the term in literature was in 1840, in Charles Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop.[4]

The dunce cap has also been connected with donkeys as a way of portraying the student as asinine. An engraving featured in an early 1900s textbook depicts a child sitting on a wooden donkey in an "eighteenth century" classroom, wearing a dunce cap with donkey ears.[4][11]

A similar cap made of paper, and called a capirote was prescribed for sinners and penitents during the Spanish Inquisition.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Jeaffreson, John Cordy (1870). A Book About Clergy. Hurst and Blackett. p. 81. ISBN 9780598437297.
  2. ^ Chico, Beverly (3 October 2013). "The Dunce Cap". Hats and Headwear around the World: A Cultural Encyclopaedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 116. ISBN 978-1-61069-063-8.
  3. ^ Grundhauser, Eric (10 September 2015). "The Dunce Cap Wasn't Always So Stupid". Atlas Obscura. Retrieved 1 September 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d Weaver, Heather A. (2012). "Object lessons: a cultural genealogy of the dunce cap and the apple as visual tropes of American education". Paedagogica Historica. 48 (2): 215–241. doi:10.1080/00309230.2011.560856. ISSN 0030-9230 – via EBSCOhost.
  5. ^ Grundhauser, Eric (10 September 2015). "The Dunce Cap Wasn't Always So Stupid". Atlas Obscura. Retrieved 1 September 2018.
  6. ^ "Dunce's corner 'banned in schools over human rights fears'". The Daily Telegraph. 4 January 2010. Retrieved 5 August 2022.
  7. ^ Ryback, David (2022). "Eastern Sources of Invitational Education". Journal of Invitational Theory and Practice. Atlanta, Georgia. 2 (2): 79. doi:10.26522/jitp.v2i2.3760. S2CID 141095154.
  8. ^ E.J.A. (19 January 1927). Quoted in Weaver, Heather A. "Object lessons: a cultural genealogy of the dunce cap and the apple as visual tropes of American education". "Better Scholarship". Educational Research Bulletin. 6 (2): 32–33.
  9. ^ Gaudere (21 June 2000). "What's the origin of the dunce cap?". The Straight Dope. Retrieved 6 April 2017.
  10. ^ a b "dunce, n.". OED Online. March 2022. Oxford University Press.
  11. ^ Duggan, Stephen (1916). A student's textbook in the history of education. New York: D. Appleton. p. 239. OCLC 881816892.

References[edit]

External links[edit]