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

College costs money.  A lot of money! And that’s one of the many reason that community colleges are becoming more popular with students.  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.

You meet the most interesting people when putting together a radio show. Week after week we get to sit down and chat with remarkable people who have accomplished, well, remarkable things. Today on the Best Of Our Knowledge, we'll look back at a couple who really made an impression.

First we’ll play back our visit with Captain William Shepherd, the first commander of the international space station. Then it’s our chat with a mother and daughter who have written a superhero…where the heroes fight school bullies.

We’ve talked about some pretty important topics this year and as 2014 winds down we’d thought we’d take a couple of weeks and revisit some that really got your attention…and lit up our inbox.

We’ll start with a show from February. Four or five decades ago, a college education wasn't worth that much.  Sure, getting a degree opened a lot of doors and many parents encouraged their children to continue their education...but there were plenty of well paying jobs waiting for people with a high school diploma, or less. Today, that's not nearly the case.

Bob Barrett / WAMC News

43 years ago this month, President Richard Nixon signed the National Cancer Act of 1971, effectively starting the so-called War on Cancer.

The law greatly increased the amount of money earmarked for cancer research and scientific study. So, how’s that war going?

Today on the Best Of Our Knowledge, a conversation with the chief science officer of the American Cancer Society about the past, present future of cancer research.

We’ll also visit a high school in Niagara Falls that is devoting a lot of time and money into STEM education.

Mayo Clinic dot org

We’ve talked a lot about genetic testing on this program over the past year or so. The amount of data that can come from the human genome seems to be growing by the day.

And there are companies that are using that data to market genetic tests for home use. Today on the Best Of Our Knowledge, we’ll hear about a test called 23 and Me…and find out why the FDA has banned it from being used as a genetic health screen in the US.

Even with all the innovations and new teaching techniques schools have introduced in the last few decades, the actual school day has looked pretty much the same.  Students go to class, listen to a teacher and take notes, then are off to do homework or study for an exam.  But there is a trend starting to take hold in some schools that reverses that school day. Today on the Best Of Our Knowledge, we’ll hear about schools that are flipping classes…and how it has succeeded where other innovations have failed.

Moving from one temporary home to another with an occasional stint living in a car isn't exactly the roadmap to academic success. In fact, it makes it almost impossible. Today on the Best Of Our Knowledge, we'll hear the story of a homeless student in Washington State.

We'll also find out that all those times your teacher told you to sit up straight, well it was good advice. And we'll spend an academic minute separating the good exercise from the not so good.

Ever drive down the road and pass one of those historical markers a lot of places erect and wonder what it's all about?

You can do that a lot...and if you stopped at all of them you'd never really get anywhere. Not to worry and, please excuse me for using this way overused line but...there's an app for that. Today on the Best Of Our Knowledge, we'll talk to the people behind Next Exit History, and learn how a stop for coffee on a road trip turned into nationwide historical database.

Do you remember the movie "Mean Girls"? The screenplay to the 2004 film was written by Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock star Tina Fey, who also had a role in the film.

The movie was a worldwide hit and remains almost a cult favorite 10 years later. But did you know it was based on a non-fiction book called "Queenbees and Wannabees"? Now the author of that book has left the world of girls and has headed over to the boys.

Today on the Best Of Our Knowledge, a conversation with author Rosalind Wisemen about her book about boys' world: Masterminds and Wingmen.

Emory University

Emory University in Atlanta is one of the top private universities in the US, with over 14 thousand students and an endowment in the billions.

And in the past few weeks its had something else of national importance: Ebola patients. Today on the Best Of Our Knowledge, we'll talk to some people behind the scenes of treating, and curing, patients with Ebola at Emory.

We'll also hear why the CDC pushing even harder for your school age kids to be vaccinated, follow a family from a life in the fields to life on campus.

The advances made in the past decade or so in genetic testing have been astounding…and research in this area continues to go forward in labs and universities across the country. But there’s another place genetic tests are starting to pop up: homes. Today on the Best Of Our Knowledge, we’ll hear about the growth of in-home genetic testing and why this d0 it yourself trend may not always be a good idea.

We’ll also hear the story of a couple a veterans who are using training of the mind to leave the battles of war behind.

Princetown University Press

It takes a lot to survive a zombie apocalypse: speed, endurance, cunning…and apparently a working knowledge of calculus.

Today on the Best Of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk to the author of the new novel Zombies and Calculus and see why surviving a zombie attack takes brains.

We’ll also hear an essay about running away from your school bully straight into adolescence. I’ll talk to a Florida ROTC teacher who recently wrote a book about how to get into the college of your choice…and pay for it.

Diane Ravitch dot com

It seems like every other day someone in the media is talking about the American education system being "broken". They say it...and everyone nods in agreement. But one of the foremost authorities on education in the US says that public schools are doing fine...the real problem is the  growing trend towards privatization.

Today on the Best Of Our Knowledge, we'll talk to former US Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch, who calls the privatization movement a Reign of Error.

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.

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