Bob Barrett

Host/Producer, The Best Of Our Knowledge

Bob has been a part of the WAMC family since 2001.  He currently produces and hosts National Production's The Best Of Our Knowledge.  Over the years, Bob has produced The Environment Show and The Health Show for National Productions and hosted weekend mornings on WAMC for a decade. He is currently a reporter and on air host at WUWF Public Radio at the University of West Florida in Pensacola. 

Ways to Connect

The Gilded Age in the US has also been called the Golden Age of Journalism. You probably couldn't convince President's Teddy Roosevelt or William Taft of that. Those two men had a special relationship between each other...and with the writers of the day...that defined their time in the White House...and after it.

Today on the Best Of Our Knowledge, we'll hear from Pulitzer Prize winning author and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin about Taft, Teddy...and the golden age of journalism.

We’ll also spend an academic minute finding out how robots communicate, with each other.

Order the same dish and three different restaurants and you’ll probably get three different flavors. No big deal, right? But it seems if you send a blood sample off to three different clinical labs for test results…you may get three different results.  And that IS a big deal. Today on the Best Of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk about the need for harmonization of laboratory methods and results.

We’ll also hear an interview with a professor of journalism and government about the need for knowledge-based journalism…and how could we resist that on this program.

University of West Florida

For a political science professor, following the recent vote on Scottish independence was the Olympics and World Cup rolled into one.

And when you start a conversation on the topic…it’s likely the subject will drift a bit. Today on the Best Of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk to a professor of political science to learn the history and the teachable moments from the vote in Scotland.

We’ll also spend an academic minute with a refreshing walk in the park.

Think back with me now…when was the last time you opened an encyclopedia…and no, Wikipedia doesn’t count. Well there is a fairly new one out that could just save your life…or not. It seems like you can’t listen to the news at all without finding something else that will eventually kill you.  Sunshine, artificial sweeteners, natural sweeteners...there’s no escaping it; they are all gunning for you. And according to this book...it’s even worse than we thought.  Today on the Best Of Our Knowledge, a conversation with an author of The Encyclopedia Paranoiaca.

The Friday and Saturday night lights have started around the country…another football season is underway and students of all ages from Pee Wee to Division One are doing their best to be their best on the field. But for athletes of any age or experience level, that sometimes means taking performance enhancing drugs.

Today on the Best Of Our Knowledge, we’ll feature two unique points of view on testing for PEDs. One who says the system is working…the other who says scrap it and let them eat steroids.

If someone tells you they are a science teacher…think about it, that really doesn’t narrow it down a lot. Earth science, chemistry, biology, astronomy, physics…these are all taught by science teachers. But it takes a special person to teach ocean science when there isn’t an ocean for hundreds of miles.

Today on the Best Of Our Knowledge, we’ll hear the story of an ocean science teacher in a land locked state.

We'll also talk about students being prescribed a lot of meds for various issues...and spend an academic minute breeding success.

Expanding access to preschool and early learning has been a priority for educators and policy makers recently, and with good reason. Research has shown that the earlier students are exposed to a group learning experience the better they do later in their education. Now, the feds are offering states money to step up their game.

Today on the Best Of Our Knowledge, we'll hear about a new, Race To the Top like competition among state for early learning grants.

One of the prime targets for bullies in school are the new kids, the ones with no friends just trying to find their way around the building.

And there's one type of family who move so much they are almost always the new kinds: military families. Now, a former military brat and her mom have written a children's book to help show these kids how to cope in school.

Today on the Best Of Our Knowledge, we'll talk to the authors of the book Military Bratz.

UPDATE: The rules for distribution of the fines from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill have been issued by the federal government. You can read more about those rules HERE.

Prisons in the US are booming. We incarcerate a greater percentage of our population than any other nation in the world. And a lot of those inmate are growing older and sicker behind bars. Today on the Best Of Our Knowledge, we’ll hear about a program where prison inmates are being taught to care for their own.

Then we’ll hear about a special day in India set aside to celebrate teachers, find out about the long road back from a traumatic brain injury…and spend an academic minute learning about medical devices that are a smooth as silk.

Unlocking to human genome was a tremendous accomplishment…and it really didn’t happen that long ago. Scientists can now map your unique genetic fingerprint, so to speak…paving the way for personalized health care…and perhaps high tech identity theft. Today on the Best Of Our Knowledge, we’ll hear about the challenges of maintaining privacy in the information age.

Then we’ll hear about students going beyond the borders of their own country to find a college or university. And we'll spend an academic minute with a look at the struggle between eco-tourism and industry.

When you fill out a form for a loan or a job application and you get to the part about education, there’s that choice right between “college degree” and “high school diploma” that says “some college”. Apparently, a whole lot of people check that box…and one state is trying to get those people back on track to a degree. Today on the Best Of Our Knowledge, we'll learn about a program called “Complete Florida”.

When it comes to learning all there is to know about Earth oceans, we've only scratched the surface...or waded in knee deep if you want an ocean metaphor. But when it comes to educating people about the waves of new information being learn about the sea...there is no Jacques Cousteau of the new millennium to spread the word. Today on the Best Of Our Knowledge, we'll talk about the challenge of bringing the ocean into the classroom.

The New Press

One in three American young people will be arrested before the age of 23, and many will spend time in institutions that used to be called "reform schools" or "rehabilitation camps"...but can really only be described as prisons.

Today on the Best Of Our Knowledge, we'll talk to the author of an extensive study of the juvenile justice system and learn just what is happening to children behind bars.

We'll also spend an academic minute looking at the health care people get while in jail.

Think about the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He took office in the depths of the great depression and guided the country through the last days of World War II.   But while FDR’s first hundred days may be the most celebrated period of his presidency, the 18 months before the attack on Pearl Harbor proved the most critical. Today on the Best Of Our Knowledge, we'll celebrate Independence Day with a trip back to history class...and learn about the most important days of FDR.

We'll also spend an academic minute understanding history by using math.

A rock is a rock is a rock...right? Well, maybe. Geologists and geochemists who study the rock that makes up our planet have found that the solid rock under our feet may not be as solid as we think.

Today on the Best Of Our Knowledge, our Astrobiology series continues with a look at the constant shift of the structure of the Earth...and how that may have clues to the origins of life on the planet.

We'll also spend an academic minute studying life on the Bering Strait...before it was a strait.

The number of students who drop out of high school is still too high in many cities...and the percentage gets higher when talking about minority students.

Today on the Best Of Our Knowledge, we'll about a west coast city’s efforts to fight the dropout rate in African American students.

Then we'll head to the clinical laboratory and learn about Micro RNAs...and what they can tell us about heart attacks. Hear about a book where the questions are way cooler than the answers...and spend an academic minute talking to robots.

It’s no secret that at a time when even people with college degrees are having trouble finding a good job, the growing number of people who fail to even finish high school is a growing problem in many American cities.

Today on the Best Of Our Knowledge, we'll hear what a city in Ohio is trying to do about the problem.

We’ll also hear from a high school senior who has been a target for colleges around the country…for years. Then it’s a trip to the lab where scientists are trying to turn “o-mics” into personalized medicine.

It's no secret that some of the greatest writers the world has known have also been some of the biggest drinkers. But is there a connection between the remarkable creativity of an Earnest Hemingway or John Cheever and the contents of their favorite bottle?

Today on the Best Of Our Knowledge, we'll from author Olivia Laing who tackles that question in her latest book.

We'll also spend an academic minute trying to find out why some things just make you laugh.

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan's National Commission on Excellence in Education published a report called "A Nation at Risk - the Imperative for Education Reform", which essentially said the country's schools were failing.

That report started the school reform movement and, according to some educators, began a system designed to punish teachers rather than enrich students.

Today on the Best Of Our Knowledge, we'll talk to a school superintendent from Texas who thinks public education in the US is under attack.

Any real estate agent will tell you, when you look for a place to live...it's location, location, location. We all like to make a home in a nice, livable neighborhood. But what makes a neighborhood livable? Some extremely small organisms can live in some extremely nasty places.

Today on the Best Of Our Knowledge, our Astrobiology series continues with a look at the extreme environments some microbial life calls home.

We'll also spend an academic minute with science fiction that's not quite fiction any more.

buildOn.org

We’ve heard many times that the key to getting out of poverty is education.

But schools cost money…something that is in short supply in the most impoverished areas of the world.  That’s a problem that Jim Ziolkowski has spent the last 20 years trying to solve. Today on the Best Of Our Knowledge, we’ll hear about the beginnings of the non-profit called buildOn that is helping the poorest around the world find education…including here in the US.

We’ll also spend an academic minute trying to find out what a livable wage looks like.

Recently, the technology company Qualcomm announced a 10 million dollar prize to anyone who can invent a medical tricorder.  That's right, the machine that Dr. McCoy used in Star Trek to diagnose everything from  Rigellian Fever to the Phage. The thing is, doctors are already using hand held technology to do some diagnosis...smart phone.

Today on the Best Of Our Knowledge, we'll hear how doctors in Africa are using smart phones to fight disease.

Usually when we talk about class on this program, it’s one of those things they have in school.  Today, not so much.  Social status , or class isn’t something we really talk about much in the US. OK during election season we hear the term middle class thrown around like crazy, but other than that it’s almost a taboo topic.  But ignoring the issue doesn’t change the issue…class matters. Today on the Best Of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk to the author of a new book about class in the US…and a new study which focused on the class divisions in the activist community.

We talk a lot about space on this program. We hear from scientists and astro-physicists and researchers…but not from the people who actually go up and do the work. Well, until now.

Today on the Best Of Our Knowledge, we’ll hear a conversation with Captain William Shepherd, the first commander of the international space station about working in space…and the politics of working side by side with Russians.

We'll also hear about school gardens, long distance unicycle ride and spend an academic minute playing with your food.

Studying the origins of life can have some benefits.  Scientists have been able to search for clues to beginnings of life down to the cellular level. And then they narrowed the search down even further.

Today on the Best Of Our Knowledge, our Astrobiology series continues with a look at the study of our DNA with this molecular biochemistry...and how this study has resulted in some new and unexpected advances in medicine.

We'll also spend an academic minute studying another type of DNA...the building blocks of flowers.

Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have been a part of children’s lives for a long time…and they’re probably not going away anytime soon. But what they say is true…times have changed. Now there’s a new kind of scouting that helps enrich a child’s digital life.

Today on The Best Of Our Knowledge, we’ll hear about D-I-Y dot O-R-G, and how it’s taken the concept of scouting into the new century.

Then we’ll head to Oregon, where teachers using the common core standards are starting with one important skill: language.

Last week we had a great talk about community colleges in the US...and what the future might hold for these institutions and their students. This week, we're going to talk about a fairly large portion of their students, and of the whole population. People who have earned a G.E.D.

Today on The Best Of Our Knowledge, we'll talk about what it means to have a G.E.D., and how getting one may have just become a bit harder.

We'll also spend an Academic Minute talking about the ear wax of whales because why not. 

I’ve got some numbers for you.  There are over 12 million students enrolled in community colleges in the US. That’s over 45% of all college students. And over the past decade those numbers have been growing. But are community colleges getting the attention…and the money…they need to serve those students?

Today on The Best Of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk about the state of community colleges in the US…and what needs to happen to keep them healthy and growing.

We'll also spend an Academic Minute giving you a one minute talk about giving a one minute talk. 

The Common Core standards. That's really all you have to say to get an animated discussion going...and by that I mean an argument. Though the standards were adopted by almost all the states, there is now a good deal of push back against them.

Today on The Best Of Our Knowledge, we’ll discuss the standards with a group of teachers from Florida, one of the states that is rethinking Common Core

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