Duns Primary School pupils are determined to turn the meaning of the Dunces cap on its head, and be a symbol of pride.
Philospher John Duns Scotus, Duns’ most famous son, was one of the leading philosopher-theologians of the 13th century but his ideas were rejected in the 16th century and anyone who still believed in them was referred to as a dunce.
The word continued to be used to describe those ‘who foolishly clung on to outmoded doctrine’ and gradually changed to meaning a person who is considered incapable of learning. Nowadays dunces are often shown wearing paper cone hats and in less enlightened educational times schoolchildren were sometimes made to wear a dunce cap and sit on a stool in the corner as a form of humiliating punishment for misbehaving or for failing to demonstrate that they had properly performed their studies.
But all that is in the past.
John Duns Scotus never fell out of favour with the Roman Catholic Church and in 1993 he was beatified by Pope John Paul II. His legacy is now celebrated and in Duns they are currently celebrating the 750th anniversary of his birth.
This week pupils from Duns Primary School wore their Dunces caps with pride as the school relaunched the ‘dunce’s cap’ to properly honour the man whose followers it was derogatorily named after originally.
The pupils worked on their own hat designs, showing the ‘growth mind-set’ and great learning which takes place in Duns Primary School, then took part in a hat parade around the John Duns Scotus Statue in Duns Public Park.
Councillor Sandy Aitchison, Scottish Borders Council’s executive member for education, said: “Where once the dunce’s cap was a symbol of stupidity, the pupils of Duns Primary School are making it a symbol of forward thinking and enlightenment, truly honouring one of their town’s famous sons.”
Duns Primary School headteacher Leanne Stewart added: “Working up to the festival to celebrate 750 years since the birth of John Duns Scotus the pupils have been looking at his life and ideas, and they are proud to be playing a part in the events in the town to mark the occasion and by celebrating their own efforts in learning.”