If I Were in Charge of Education
This is What I Would Mandate

Trump said that if he were re-elected president, he would be a dictator for a day. I’m not running to be president, nor am I running for school board. However, if I were, I would mandate all forms of art history to be taught from K-12. Here is a former PowerPoint of my art history classes for college students. Additionally, I would require all students to memorize a hundred lines of poetry or prose each semester in high school. I had to do that six decades ago. It amazes me how much being familiar with what poets and novelists thought, which still applies today.

In my previous essay, I mentioned Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Kubla Khan. I memorized the first stanza of that poem because I did not grasp any of the other stanzas.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea...

After I sent that article to my web administrator, I thought about Coleridge’s other poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. That poem contained several stanzas that I memorized and still can recall.

Coleridge’s poem is about an ancient mariner who wasn’t at sea. The old sailor is instead at a wedding party. He comes upon three wedding guests and tells them about a time long ago while he was aboard a ship.

The ancient mariner confronts the wedding guests.

The ancient mariner confronts the wedding guests.

All but one of them ignores the ancient mariner. That guest questioned why he wanted to tell a tale about a voyage long ago.

He begins to tell one wedding guest his story.

He begins to tell one wedding guest his story.

The old sailor forces the reluctant guest to listen. The ancient mariner begins his story as everyone else enjoys the wedding celebration. The voyage began on a bright, sunny day. However, the ship travels to colder climes.

This stanza was one of those that I memorized. It described the winter storm that faced the ship and the crew.

The ice was here, the ice was there
The ice was all around:
It cracked and growled, and roared and howled,
Like noises in a swound!

The ice was all around.

“The ice was all around.”

You will note that an albatross came into view of the ship. The crew fed and played with the albatross daily. It had saved the crew. Nonetheless, the ancient mariner, for some reason, shot the albatross with his crossbow.

The mariner shoots the albatross.

The mariner shoots the albatross.

As a result of that senseless killing, the ship was now in a placid sea without a breeze and with the sun beating down upon the crew.

This was another of my memorized stanzas.

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

The crew punished the sailor for needlessly killing the albatross by tying the dead bird around his neck.

Ancient Mariner

The crew died, and the ship sank, but the ancient mariner was rescued. He told the wedding guest the story of his rescue from the sea. Then he adds this postscript.

Farewell, farewell! but this I tell
To thee, thou Wedding-Guest!
He prayeth well, who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast.

He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.

The mariner, whose eye is bright,
Whose beard with age is hoar,
Is gone: and now the Wedding-Guest
Turned from the bridegroom’s door.

The mariner continues his journey of telling his story.

The mariner continues his journey of telling his story.

After listening to the ancient mariner, the wedding guest left the ancient mariner a transformed person. This is Coleridge’s last stanza.

He went like one that hath been stunned,
And is of sense forlorn:
A sadder and a wiser man,
He rose the morrow morn.

Art history is transformative. One grasps the meaning of life more clearly when the piece of art isn’t about the viewer...initially. Coleridge’s poem is an artistic metaphor. His genius is in conveying the truth without pointing a finger at anyone. All his readers are like that wedding guest. Hopefully, we will all rise the morrow morn sadder but wiser.

When someone tucks Donald the Dumb into bed some evening, that person ought to read The Rime of the Ancient Mariner to him. Even Trump might rise the morrow morn a sad but wise man. Okay. He will never learn. Nonetheless, at least some of the MAGA minions might.

This video is of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, along with Gustave Dore’s engravings of the poem.