Back-to-school season always brings new controversy and this year is no different. The Dunce
school bag has invaded Jamaica, leaving school administrators dumbfounded and scrambling for
Educators are disgruntled, parents are confused, and students are just happy to grab the trendy
bag before it sold out on the company’s website. This Dunce bag entry as an education issues
raised many questions. Why did parents approve this back-to-school purchase? Why do students
want a bag that is branded with such an insulting term? Why is this even a trend?
We are not sure of the answer, but clearly no single person can be blamed for our children
calling themselves dunce. Parents, family and teachers have long called some children dunce,
perhaps because they were called dunce themselves when younger. Far too often, we’ve heard “
a wah do dah dunce pickney yah” sometimes out of frustration or even with the intent of hurting
the child. Words are powerful, and can resonate easily in the minds of impressionable young
people. But blaming Dancehall entertainers such as Valiant, with his hit song “Dunce Cheque”,
is not the answer either. He and other artistes just reflect in their content what is culturally
Some educators have less interest in placing blame on the Fully Dunce and are focused on
putting it to a stop. Some say the Dunce bags have no place in their schools and have banned
them. It’s hard to blame them because the bag, or the idea it communicates, betrays all that a
school stands for as an institution of learning.
Others see banning the school bag as harsh, and suggest we are blowing a silly teen trend way
out of proportion. It is not like we have not seen similar drama before. When young people drop
a new trend or slang the public is often horrified. It happened when young males began using
“dawg” to refer to one's peers. But, as with the “dawg” issue, trends quickly assimilate into the
culture, leaving society intact.
To be fair, part of the Dunce threat has to do with the drop in school attendance after COVID-19.
Educators say a high percentage of students are already behind in their studies and don’t want
anything to exacerbate this, …uh, trend. They fear the Dunce issue could be self-fulfilling.
Students may hide behind the label as a way of managing expectations from parents and
teachers, and finding solace in labelling themselves as dunce. If that is true, our teachers and
students may have a challenging school year ahead.