A set of century-old traditions aim to grow well-rounded citizens – laws against child labor and the exploitation of young workers; summer camp and summer vacation; a civic-minded, liberal arts education in high school and college. How much of that will we give up for enhanced competitiveness and a foot in the door? With good reason, 18-year-olds talk of feeling “burnt out,” and young people at every stage pine for a “year off,” “a gap year,” or indeed any kind of socially acceptable halt to the relentless credential slog. …Some internships may fit the bill for original, autonomous self-definition, but on the whole they fall far short of meeting that description. As education, they pale in comparison to our schools. As training to work, they compare unfavorably with apprenticeships. As a form of work, they are often a disappointment, and sometimes a rank injustice, failing our expectations and violating our laws. They have come to embody the ethos that all free, unstructured time should be harnessed for resume-building and career development…..You can opt out – take back your time, boycott the busy work. You’ll probably be in a cubicle soon enough. Well-intentioned, jittery parents should not lend blind support, moral or financial, to anything labeled an “internship,” that magic word which suspends judgment. … Paid work experience, personal projects, foreign-language mastery, community service, job shadowing, freelance work, academic research, registered apprenticeships, and just plain old living and learning are all possible ways forward.” P. 205“Any thoughtful approach to fixing the current system must proceed along two tracks: rectifying the indignities faced by current interns and ensuring greater access to internships that are worthwhile and meet basic criteria of fairness. The current system generates more and more opportunities – of increasingly lower quality. High school students and college freshmen are eager for the chance to indulge their curiosity and try out a profession early on – an understandable feeling, especially given a dearth of targeted, short-term job shadowing opportunities and a school system that is still substantially disconnected from the world of work. P. 207-208“What employers can do is not a mystery: open advertising of positions; a strong training and mentoring component; discrete and manageable projects; a duration of at least a few months, allowing intern and supervisor to adjust to each other. What about the nature of the work? Most interns don’t and shouldn’t expect immediate glamor, writing legislation and designing the summer fashion line. Nearly everyone staples reports and makes coffee sometimes, but interns should not replace administrative assistants, janitors, couriers, or temps, for a dozen obvious reasons. College student plus work does not equal an internship. The term “intern” should be applied ethically and transparently to opportunities that involve training, mentoring, and getting to know a line of work – internships should reflect what a given industry is all about and what the organization actually does. Tasks should play to an intern’s strengths and account for the training she’s receiving. Academic credit, supervised by a professor, can be a valuable enhancement and a useful safeguard, if there is a genuine academic tie-in – but this applies to a distinct minority of internships.