dunce cap

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dunce cap

A pointed hat that a student deemed lazy, stupid, or incompetent was once forced to wear. These days, the phrase is typically used humorously to evoke the image without an actual hat. Did I just say that 2+2=5? Wow, I need the dunce cap.
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Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

dunce cap

The mark of ignorance. Before more enlightened pedagogical theories came into practice, students who were considered slow learners or even completely incapable of learning were made to sit on a high stool in a classroom corner while wearing a tall, conical paper cap with the word “dunce” on it. The rationale was that such embarrassment would encourage the child to try harder and do better (perhaps as a traumatized juvenile delinquent). Such headgear has gone the way of the three Rs taught to the tune of a hickory stick, but as a phrase, people who make a mistake then smack themselves up the side of the head while uttering a Homer Simpson–like “doh!” might then ask rhetorically “Where'd I leave that dunce cap?” “Dunce” has an interesting derivation. It comes from the medieval philosopher John Duns Scotius, whose ideas were considered foolish. He and his followers wore conical hats, the top meant to point toward higher wisdom. The similarity to dunce caps is inescapable.
See also: cap
Endangered Phrases by Steven D. Price Copyright © 2011 by Steven D. Price
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References in periodicals archive ?
But like the student with a dunce cap, Peirce was ostracized by academia, and died in poverty.
It has become de rigueur to paint those who scratch their heads and wonder about the general sanity of 9/ll-era decision making into a corner and put dunce caps on their heads.
Put on your dunce caps! It's international education comparison season again.
Participants were forced to don dunce caps and endure other humiliating punishments when they committed such infractions as speaking to the teacher without first being spoken to.
Here we see, systematically organized and glossed all the iconographic conventions: Jews with horns, Jews with dunce caps, Jews leering at Christian women, Jews drinking the blood of ritually sacrificed Christian children.
But like our opportunity to make diversity work for all of us we can collectively work to shed our dunce caps as well the welfare of the public requiring it.
none of Augustine's colleagues have yet been frog-marched through the streets in dunce caps to be jeered at by the populace.