The new school year is now a few weeks old.

Teachers are finding ways to keep their students interested, motivated and focused on what they’re teaching.

Fortunately, the way they do all that today is often more, shall we say, student friendly than it used to be.

For example, you don’t see many dunce caps anymore.

The Straight Dope reported on the origin of that pointy headgear that very pointedly tried to cast students as dopes.

The hat and its name come from John Duns Scotus, who hailed from the Scottish town of Duns.

In the late 13th and early 14th centuries, Scotus was a well respected philosopher and religious scholar.

His school of thought was known as Scotism and his followers were known as Dunsmen or Dunces.

They were known for their pointy, cone-shaped hats.

Scotus reportedly thought the shape meant the knowledge of the universe would funnel into the wearer’s mind.

Fast forward a few centuries to the Renaissance.

There was a whole new world of thinkers and scholars, and they thought the ideas of the Middle Ages were, no pun intended, old hat.

So the word “Dunce” was no longer a way to call someone wise; it meant that a person was stuck in the old ways, completely behind the times.

Eventually schools started putting the pointy Dunsman’s caps on students who were themselves behind in their schoolwork, though researchers have also noted that in a lot of cases, the students who had to wear the caps actually had learning disabilities or were still learning the local language.

By the 1950s, more and more educators had concluded that maybe sending a kid to the corner and making them put on a funny looking hat with a big letter D on it wasn’t an educational best practice.

After all, nobody wants to feel like a dunce – at least not on this side of the 1400s.

In Concord, New Hampshire, my old hometown, there’s something new that the creators call a “nice little Easter egg” for people in town to find.

On the back of an elevator shaft on an apartment building, muralists have painted a scene from the original Donkey Kong video game, with Mario swinging his trusty hammer and DK loading up some barrels to throw at him.

And you don’t even need to insert coin to enjoy it!

What’s the origin of the dunce cap? (The Straight Dope)

NH gets a cool new monument to video games (GraniteGeek)

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