I’m Goldie Blumenstyk, a senior writer at The Chronicle covering innovation in and around higher ed.

Each week I share my latest thinking on the people and ideas reshaping higher ed, alternating between my own reporting and my picks for thought-provoking and useful stories and resources out there. I also mix in some quick takes and occasional contributions from my colleagues.

This week I report on a new curriculum designed to tame internet hate, and share some insights and advice about internships, campus tutoring centers, and the rising tide of book censorship in America.

Teaching to defeat hate online.

This April’s confluence of Easter, Passover, Ramadan, Vaisakhi, among other holidays seems like a good occasion to highlight a new curriculum designed to combat the misinformation and hate that proliferate in online spaces. The interfaith roots of this project, which was developed by an organization whose work should be familiarto regular readers, make the model especially timely.

#Interfaith; Engaging Religious Diversity Online is a self-paced, nine-part course aimed primarily at 18- to 25-year-old college students, but available to anyone interested in it. It’s a creation of Interfaith Youth Core, or IFYC, a 20-year-old group that has historically focused on promoting interreligious understanding on college campuses, but is now expanding its work. (Next month it will change its name to Interfaith America to reflect that.)

Essentially, the course is about leadership, IFYC’s senior adviser for public affairs and innovation, Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, told me. But what it’s really about is “what leadership looks like when it intersects with religion and the internet,” he said.

For students aspiring to be models of interfaith leadership — or anyone just trying to be a decent human being —the course modules offer practical tips for disrupting hate online (Raushenbush noted that Jews and Muslims are among the top five groups targeted for such digital abuse) and a range of facts and figures for participants to draw upon to refute disinformation. The course also highlights the value of not reacting too quickly — Raushenbush described it as “the sacred pause — think before you post,” paraphrasing a teaching from the New York City Rabbi Joshua Stanton— and that really resonated with me.

This isn’t the first time IFYC has looked to online education. In fact, one of the last pre-pandemic conversations I had with Raushenbush and the group’s founder, Eboo Patel, was about how it wanted to go beyond the four-year residential-college sphere to online programs that serve more adult and working students. I even hosted a related webinar. “We’re not done trying,” Raushenbush said of the effort to broaden its reach to different student populations. But when the pandemic hit, and the organization saw a rise in online hate, he said, this interfaith curriculum, offered in collaboration with ReligionAndPublicLife.org, took a higher priority. “Unfortunately, the people who are really good at the internet are not always the best people,” Raushenbush said. The organization sees a “moral obligation” to help those with good intentions develop the skills to respond.

That idea also animates Patel’s latest book, We Need to Build: Field Notes for Diverse Democracy (out next month), on how to be a social-change agent across sectors and issues. “In a diverse democracy,” he wrote me in an email this week, “we need to defeat the things we do not love by building the things we do.” He called the online curriculum a guide for doing that in the virtual world.

Check these out.

Here are some education-related items from other outlets that recently caught my eye. Did I miss a good one? Let me know.

  • Along with the growing national consciousness about student debt, there’s been a “massive shift in opinion” on whether individuals or the government should bear more of the responsibility for the cost of college. For decades, two-thirds of Americans have said that students and their families should be primarily responsible. But that’s now about 50-50 in surveys, according to two sociologists — Natasha Quadlin of the University of California at Los Angeles and Brian Powell of Indiana University — writing in a blog post on the Brookings Brown Center Chalkboard site.
  • College leaders must expand access to paid internships, especially for historically underserved, low-income, and racially minoritized student populations, argue the policy analysts Mauriell H. Amechi and Iris Palmer of New America in this post. Assisting interns with child-care and transportation costs, the authors say, insisting that career centers promote paid internships only, and even raising funds to help pay internship wages would all help.
  • Campus tutoring services are meeting more students where they are, according to this article onEdSurge. With scheduling apps, programs that embed tutors in large courses, and greater emphasis on study skills, tutoring better engages students “who have become disconnected,” the article says.
  • Black women struggle more than any other group with student-loan debt, according to a new report from EdTrust, “How Black Women Experience Student Debt.” They often need to borrow more to cover the cost of attending college and have a hard time with repayment, says the report, based on the National Black Student Debt Study, which surveyed nearly 1,300 Black borrowers and conducted in-depth interviews with 100 borrowers. Even those who earn a degree don’t necessarily benefit from higher salaries: Data show that they get a lower financial return on their higher-ed investment than men of all races and than most women, except for Latinas with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • In the last nine months, the scope of book bans in public schools has expanded rapidly, a report by PEN America shows. As part of its new “Banned in the USA” report, the literary and free-speech advocacy organization produced an index of bans of 1,145 titles by 874 authors across 26 states. “It is not just the number of books removed that is disturbing,” the organizations writes, “but the processes — or lack thereof — through which such removals are being carried out.”

Got a tip you’d like to share or a question you’d like me to answer? Let me know, at goldie@chronicle.com. If you have been forwarded this newsletter and would like to see past issues, find them here. To receive your own copy, free, register here. If you want to follow me on Twitter, @GoldieStandard is my handle.

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