June 18, 2013 1:39PM

Paying to Learn Nothing = Legal
Paying Nothing to Learn = Illegal

Last week, a NY district court ruled unpaid internships illegal. Note that if you voluntarily choose to take such an internship, it’s because you think you’ll acquire job skills that will advance your career—and if you decide you aren’t learning such skills you can leave any time.

Contrast this with college. Researchers Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa find that almost half of all college students made no significant gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning, or written communication after two full years of study. Even after four full years of college “education” a third of students made no significant gains in these areas—areas long thought to be core skills imparted by higher education. Despite college’s dubious educational value, social convention and a desire to signal employability pressure young people into pursuing a four year degree. Many emerge with little to show for the ordeal beyond a pile of debt (pushing $1 trillion nationally).

So the NY district court is saying that it’s perfectly legal to go into serious debt though you may well learn nothing of value, but it is illegal to learn practical job skills at no cost except your time. 

And for that reason, I’m with Mr. Bumble.