“Frivolous” Humanities Helped Prisoners Survive in Communist Romania

Covertly Studying Language and Literature Connected Captives and Freed Their Minds

In a recent New York Times article on the movement to promote university majors promising higher employment and income, Anthony Carnevale, a professor at Georgetown University, sums up the utilitarian view of education in one snappy phrase: “You can’t be a lifelong learner if you’re not a lifelong earner.”

Things often sound true when they rhyme. Growing up in Canada, I would have agreed with Carnevale. I would have even agreed with politicians like the governor of North Carolina, Patrick McCrory, who sees university primarily as job training. I had …

We used the new Crayola colors

December 1989


Mourning black
were the women’s headscarves,
like crows perched on their heads,

and the graffiti smeared on walls:
“Peace to you,
our dead.”

We colored the air
with chants
and …

We Tore Down the Iron Curtain For This?

People Died To Give Romanians Democracy. We Keep Mucking It Up.

The story here starts 22 years ago. December, almost Christmas, 1989. I was 5 years old, but my age did not prevent me from hearing death’s roar—the death of democratic …