Yesterday, November 8th, was National Dunce Day. I put it in my calendar of reminders sometime back; I don’t remember exactly when, nor do I remember the reasoning behind the annual reminder. I don’t celebrate it and I’ve never researched it, until this morning.

Although it actually is listed in the Holiday Insights database of recognized special days, having been added in November 2007, the term isn’t a modern term and isn’t commonly used in our day and time.

Seeing the word, you might immediately connect it to a black and white image from the early to mid-1900s of a young student, sitting in a corner, with a pointed hat on his or her head (most likely a boy, since expectations were higher for males to achieve and become leaders and girls were rarely shamed in such a public manner).

Research shows that the term isn’t an American term and, whereas it does have tie-ins to learning, it’s more religious in nature than scholastic.

It derives from the name of 13th century scholar, John Duns Scotus, a Scottish Catholic priest and Franciscan friar, university professor, philosopher, and theologian. Perhaps you’ve heard of him; quite possibly, you haven’t. I hadn’t until about 30 minutes ago.

Scotus was one of the three most important philosopher-theologians of Western Europe in the High Middle Ages, along with Thomas Aquinas and William of Ockham, both of whom I knew prior to 30 minutes ago.

Aquinas, an Italian Dominican friar, philosopher, and Catholic priest, was a revered theologian. I should say that he still is, as his writings continue to create much discussion and debate among theologians to this day. The guy was quite brilliant.

William of Ockham is most commonly associated with the concept of Occam’s Razor. His driving philosophy was that, “Entities should not be multiplied without necessity.” Today we boil that down to something like, “Don’t complicate the issue; the simplest answer is usually the right answer.” Like Aquinas (and John Duns Scotus), his primary field of study was religious in nature.

These three were the top thinkers of their day and their thoughts influenced the masses for generations… they were theologians.

For the sake of this discussion, I’m purposely leaving religion outside in the cold, because in our day and age, even religious people are only devout for a couple of hours once a week and truth be told, the mind wanders during that time as well. I fully doubt that more than a small percentage are able to block out “the cares of this world” and turn their attention completely to the affairs of the service in which they are “participating.”

If we were to talk about thinking… pure, uninterrupted thinking, I think we’d have to agree that we rarely, if ever, set aside time for thought. Stop for a moment and try to remember the last time you spent more than a handful of seconds in deep focus on a single concept. Five minutes? Thirty minutes? An hour? We just don’t do it… we haven’t the time; we lack the patience.

Most who started reading this didn’t make it past the opening sentence of the second paragraph. If you’ve made it to this point, you’re one of the few and hopefully you’re not rolling your eyes and regretting the time you’ve just wasted.

Albert Einstein is well-regarded as one of the brainiest brainiacs of all time and he famously set aside time for what he termed “Thought Experiments.” That is, he would just sit and spend time pondering his way through a question in search of a solution. He thought about stuff… on purpose.

In his book, How to Become A CEO, Jeffrey J. Fox, challenges the aspiring CEO to:

“Spend one hard hour every day planning,
dreaming, scheming, thinking, calculating,
reviewing your goals, and considering your options.”


It’s harder work than you might imagine, but the essence of the principle is this, “If you invest time thinking about getting stuff done, you’ll be more effecting when it comes to actually getting that stuff done.”

We live most of our days via one of two methods –

Process #1 – Auto-Pilot. We sleepwalk through something that we’ve done over and over in the past (such as driving to work, mowing the lawn, or filing the paperwork). We’ve developed the ability to complete those tasks without being mentally vested in them.

Process #2 – Reflex-Reaction. Something happens and we respond out of instinct, giving little thought to how we should handle things. We just jump right in and start slinging mud against the walls.

Neither of these two methods leave room for Einstein’s favorite approach – The Thought Experiment.

Yesterday was National Dunce Day. Maybe today should be National Think-About-It Day, a day in which we ponder our problems, write down our ideas, and figure out how to get things done just a little more effectively. Actually, that might be a good investment of some of our time every day.

Happy Saturday…


Disclaimer: Saturday Morning Rambles are not designed to be literary prose. They are random thoughts that pour out onto my keyboard over a 30 to 45 minute stretch on any given Saturday morning. They are not refined, reworded, or examined for any continuity of thought or purpose.  I hope you can find a moment of enjoyment and appreciation in the rambling train wreck that they often turn out to be.


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