The Best Of Our Knowledge

Fridays, 3pm - 3:30pm

Every day, faculty members at schools and universities throughout the world are making discoveries that shape our ways of thinking and redefine our understanding of today's knowledge-driven society. Since 1990, The Best of Our Knowledge has highlighted breakthroughs across disciplines and across the globe, putting you in touch with the men and women at the forefront of their fields. Each week this program examines some of the issues unique to college campuses, looks at the latest research, and invites commentary from experts and administrators from all levels of education.

Twitter: @TBOOKnowledge

Ways to Connect


Given the size and financial strength of some large college and universities in the US, it came as a bit of a surprise that a small, liberal arts college in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts is the first institution in the country to go 100 percent solar.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk to the college president who got this project rolling.

Since the end of the Civil War to the current trend of charter schools and vouchers, the American education system has been under pressure to integrate and provide and equal school experience for all.  And for a while it was working.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk to the head of American Studies at Cornell University about segregation, privatization and what she sees as the current crisis in public education in the US.

We’ll also spend an academic minute seeing if liberal education can bring leadership to the country.

There’s a national network of local, non-profit organizations working together to guide a student’s education and improve their outcomes from the time they start learning to the time they start earning.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll learn about the Strive Together Network, and hear how they want to create student success from cradle to career..

We’ll also spend an academic minute hearing about the cradle to career social activates of apes.

If you want to learn how to be a better doctor or scientist you should go talk to a pilot. Next time on The Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll do that…talk to a pilot who is also a scientist about how medicine should take a page from aviation’s book.

We’ll also spend an academic minute trying to get baby boomers back to college.

Today’s college students are paying 21st century dollars for a 19th century education. That’s according to a new book by an expert in educational innovation. She says colleges and universities have been operating by the same educational template for well over a century.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll hear a discussion about how to revolutionize the university and prepare students for a world in flux.

We’ll also spend an academic minute trying to figure out what it means to be a successful college student.

So, did you hear the one about the public radio program that did an episode about the history of humor? OK, that probably qualifies as the least funny way to introduce this episode. Week after week we bring you stories and conversation with some of the greatest minds we can find. But sometimes, even the most stoic professor has got to bring the funny.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk about the importance of being funny…or at least trying.

In 1783, the newly formed American congress promised to hang a portrait of a Spanish general who was instrumental in the colonies’ victory in the halls of congress. Over 200 years later, it still hadn’t happened. Then, a couple of years ago, a young woman found out about that promise and took action.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll hear about a new book for students that tells the story of how a young person with a purpose can make a difference.

In 1997, a classic book on the psychology of racism was published called “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? - And Other Conversations About Race”.  Now that book has been updated and rereleased as a 20th anniversary edition and it seems as fresh as the day it was new.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, a conversation with Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum about the update of her book on race and education in the US.

Plus we’ll spend an academic minute getting an update on the refugee crisis, going all the way back to 400 BC.

If you’re a science fiction fan, chances are you’ve heard more than a few stories about time travel. Next time on The Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll learn the history of time travel and why we care.

We’ll also hear about special classes for police officers to diffuse violent situations…and spend an academic minute mourning the mall.

I’m Bob Barrett…that’s this week on The Best of Our Knowledge.

A lot of people who run schools in the US are nervous. There’s new leadership in Washington and an education department that seems to have turned away from local, public schools in favor of charters and privatization. And then there are the endless standardized tests.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk to a pair of educators who have decades of experience running and teaching in public schools who say these school belong to you and me.

Then we’ll spend an academic minute with deciding if Wikipedia has a place in the classroom.

Raise your hand if you’ve been in more than one morning meeting that didn’t quite inspire you for the rest of the day. OK, put your hands down. But teachers across the country are using morning meetings with students to get the day off to a fast, productive start. And it appears to be even more important for students with special needs.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk about over 100 morning meeting ideas for special ed students.

The United States Constitution has a lot of fans. To hear some politicians and pundits talk you would think it was the most perfect document ever drafted. But when you stop and really look into it, this puppy has some issues.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll to the authors of a new book for students outlining the many fault lines of the constitution.

And we’ll spend an academic minute with a gentle reminder…WASH YOUR HANDS!

Click here for the Fault Lines in the Constitution BLOG.

UT San Antonio

Suppose you started a conversation about the US constitution and the federal court system, you know, like anyone would on a cloudy Thursday. You probably wouldn’t expect to start hearing about pirates and mutiny on the high seas. You should.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll learn how a privateer’s adventure during the American Revolution helped shape the federal court system.

And while we’re talking about history, we’ll also spend an academic minute learning what part of history is important to you by the pictures you take.

For almost 60 years, one of New York City’s top Catholic high schools has been accepting and educating some of the city’s top students…as long as they were boys. That all changed last year.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll visit Xaverian High School in Brooklyn to hear how they changed a half a century tradition of same sex education.

We’ll also hear how a catholic school in Detroit makes getting a job part of a student’s homework…and we’ll spend an academic minute with a whole lot of single people.

Can Alzheimer’s disease be reversed? Just asking that question likely evokes strong opinions and emotions. But one neuroscientist says it may be possible if science is willing to get uncomfortable.  Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll hear about the new book The End of Alzheimer’s.

We’ll also talk to the winner of fellowship from the NIH about his research into HIV and other chronic diseases…and we’ll spend an academic minute searching for happiness in a depressing world.

Connecticut College

Over the past few weeks we’ve been talking a lot about the liberal arts and whether a liberal arts education   is still a valid tool in today’s job market. And for the most part, the answer has been either a guarded or resounding yes. But not all liberal arts programs are created equal.  Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk about Connecticut College and their new program called Connections.

Bob Barrett

Good teachers are hard to find…and a county school district in Florida has gone out of its way to make sure it kept one of theirs. Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll tell you the story of Steve Box, a music teacher on the Florida panhandle who suffered from severe hearing loss…and what that district did to keep him in the classroom

And we’ll spend an academic minute finding out why hearing new music can feel so darn good.

Having a child with a physical or learning disability is not easy. And when that child gets older and it’s time to enroll them in school the road does not get any smoother.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk to a special ed teacher who just published a book that parents can use as a roadmap for their child’s education.

The skills needed for a success career are changing almost year by year. But there seems to be one skill that never goes out of style, and may be more important than ever: simply being able to think.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk about the surprising power of a so-called useless liberal arts education.

Also, last week we spoke to people who are preserving a community farm in New York State…today we’ll chat with someone trying to preserve heirloom seeds…and we’ll spend an academic minute looking for good tippers.

What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s probably the most asked question in a young person’s life. For many, answering it is a chore well into adulthood. But when they get to college, they are asked to instantly start down whatever path it is they think they want to take.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll hear why the arts and sciences should still be a big part of a higher education.

#1400: "The New Kids"

Jul 20, 2017

So what were you doing 14 hundred weeks ago? It was the spring of 1990, and a new program called The Best of Our Knowledge debuted on WAMC radio. Bob Barrett, the current producer and host of TBOOK has only been around for the last 300 of those weeks. He went back and listened to the first program he hosted back in 2011 and found that the topic is still interesting and relevant.

You’ve seen them, those students or colleagues who are always taking the bull by the horns and plowing through projects and assignments on their own. In academia, these are called self-directed learners. Now, a professor has used the concept of self-directed learning to analyze one of the greatest relationships in music history.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, did self-directed learning break up the Beatles?

University of Missouri

A lot of people have a lot of opinions about climate change. However, there is only one set of actual facts. Now, a new study shows that an important group of people are getting some of those facts wrong: science teachers.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk about that study.

We’ll also hear from two groups of students…one focused on their future careers…and one that is completing a trip to Ecuador.

We’ll also spend an academic minute helping kids think about stuff.

If you are a university professor on the track to tenure, apparently the last place you want or need to be is a classroom filled with students. Next time on The Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk to a long time professor about what it takes to become a long time professor.

We’ll also spend an Academic Minute with some unusual weather.

Masa Israel Journey.


More and more students in the US are choosing to take a “gap year”…a 12 month break from school between high school and college to travel and experience the world. In fact there is one country that is actively encouraging those students to come on down and take that gap year with them.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, a conversation about Masa Israel Journey.

#1395: "GED Works!"

Jun 15, 2017

A couple of years ago, a group of major employers in the US got together to provide their employees with a path to complete an important part of their education. And we’re not talking about technical education or masters degrees.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll learn about GED Works…and how this program can help employees finally get their GED.

NY State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia holds a meeting on the Every Students Succeeds Act in Plattsburg, New York.
Pat Bradley

Here it is, 2017, and we’re still talking about No Child Left Behind…and that was two presidents ago. Right now in New York State, they are working on the replacement to that Bush era initiative to the Obama era Every Student Succeeds Act.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, New York’s Education Commissioner hears from the public.

We’ll also hear from protesters who want a controversial local school board member kicked out…learn that self-awareness is important to get a head in the world…and we’ll spend an academic minute building a better bus route.


Women attending college don’t exactly practice the healthiest lifestyles. That, I’m sure, comes as no big surprise. But a new study about the activity level of these students shines a new light on what can motivate a woman to start eating better and getting some exercise.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk to the lead author of that study to see what it takes to get some college age students moving.

We’ll also learn that pressure on women to be their best doesn’t start in college…and we’ll spend an academic minute dealing with peer pressure to chow down.

Colleges don’t admit students, they admit applications. That’s what a long time college application consultant says about the current state of college admission in the US.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk about how students can make themselves attractive to the college of their choice…and when they should start trying.

We’ll also learn that the number of words a child learns goes a long way toward academic success in the future…and we’ll spend an academic minute looking for heroes.

#1391: "Smart Homes"

May 18, 2017
Bob Barrett

Can technology make us smarter? Well I’m not sure about that, but it can make the things around us smarter. In fact, advances in building techniques and practices, and the addition of custom technology have started a new trend in construction: smart homes.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll put on our hard hats and tour a smart home building site.