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

Here’s a rather obscure name from American history: Billy Lee. He was George Washington’s valet. There’s also Alfred Jackson. He was a faithful servant of Andrew Jackson. The two names you do know have something in common, they were US Presidents. The other two men also have something in common, they were slaves.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we open up the door to history class and talk about the complicated early history of the US…and the people who lived in the shadow of liberty.

We’ll also spend an academic minute passing the buck.

Teaching politics can be an interesting balancing act in the best of times. This year…who the heck knows? Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk to a professor of politics about exactly how he gets his message to students…and how they get theirs right back to him.

We’ll also hear from a professor who is fascinated by the world of magic and magicians…and thinks you should be too.

And we’ll spend an academic looking talking about how what you read influences what you write.

It’s well known that in the early 1800’s, slaves who escaped captivity used a loosely knit group of safe houses called the Underground Railroad to find safety and freedom in the North. But some found themselves finding freedom in the other direction.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk to the author of a book for grade schoolers taken from a family’s oral history called Go South for Freedom.

In early September, the for-profit college ITT Tech suddenly shut down operations and over 50 thousand students were left with no degree, lots of debt and few options.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll hear from the Undersecretary of Education about what’s being done to help the displaced students of ITT Tech.

We’ll also talk to the author of a book on evolution that is aimed at a very specific age group…preschoolers.

And we’ll spend an academic with what could be called the opposite of evolution: extinction.

Hillsdale College

Here in the US, freedom’s kind of a big deal. In fact, the founding fathers used the words freedom and liberty a lot while crafting the constitution. Now, over 200 years later, we’re still studying those words and their meaning.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk to a professor who says that liberty is the lodestar of our governing document.

We’ll also hear about a group of student suing for a better environment, attend the reenactment of a pivotal battle in the War of 1812…and spend an academic minute trying to find some peace and quiet.

Richard Termine

In 1971, an actress from the Bronx, who had just made her Broadway debut, was offered an audition on a children’s educational television show. It had already been on the air for two years…and it was different.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk to actress Sonia Manzano, who retired last year after 44 years of playing Maria on Sesame Street.

We’ll also hear about a competition to build a better robot. The competitors/ Eighth graders from California


We talk a lot about heroes in today’s culture. In fact, the word has lost a little bit of its luster. But the world lost a hero a few weeks ago…someone whose name you may not know. Let’s just say if you woke up this morning and you didn’t have smallpox, thank Dr. D.A. Henderson.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll dip into the archives and replay my interview with Dr. Henderson who passed away last month at the age of 87.

We’ll also hear commentary from the head of the New York teachers union about ways to solve the ongoing teacher shortage.

Traveling by air has never been safer. For years, airlines have put practices and procedures in place that make flying a safe, if not entirely comfortable experience. And a lot of people could learn a thing or two from their efforts. Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk to a pilot who is also a doctor and clinical chemist, about what the world of medicine could learn from the world of aviation.

And since we’re spending some time talking about flying, we’ll spend an academic minute underground talking about caves.

University of West Florida

They’re moving in. Millions of freshmen are getting ready for their first year of college and one of the big questions on their mind is: "did I pick the right major to help me get a job"? It’s a pretty important question. Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk to an economist about where the jobs are…or at least where they will be in four years.


If you’re a sports fan, this has to be a great time of year for you. First of all, the Olympics are everywhere. Then there’s the baseball pennant races, College and Pro Football getting underway. Student athletes of all ages from Pee Wee to Division One will be 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.

Siena College

When you stop and think about it, a bachelor’s degree in, well just about anything, is pretty much a one size fits all exercise.  Students take the same classes from the same instructors and take the same exams. But that could be changing. So after talking about degrees in Homeland Security and Gaming in the past two weeks, today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll hear about a new customizable business degree program.

We’ll also talk about big data…it’s everywhere.

And we’ll spend an academic minute with the story of the only female governor in the US to die in office.

You may have noticed that a lot of people are walking around a lot of places playing a certain game on their phones. Although it may seem that this game that shall not be named dropped from the heavens…it actually had to be developed by human beings. And people who can develop such things are in demand. Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll hear about a new college degree in video game production.

We’ll also talk to a veteran teacher who wrote a book about helicopter parents, special snowflake and other…uh…stuff.

If you want to get ahead in life, you have to learn to make good decisions. And that should start at an early age. Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll hear about a program in upstate New York called the Leadership project that is working to help 5th graders make good choices.

We’ll also hear about a new bachelor’s degree in homeland security, find out what a warm line is (hint: it’s kinda like a hot line…only less urgent), and we’ll spend an academic minute learning from our mistakes.

Being a teacher means mastering quite a few disciplines. Communication, innovation, empathy and you may not have thought of this one…ethics. In fact, educators come across ethical dilemmas almost every day…and how they deal with them affects students in profound ways. Not to mention themselves.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk to the co-author of a new book on educational ethics.

We’ll also spend an academic minute seeing if lapses in ethics can be blamed on your hormones.

#1347: "Finding NEEMO"

Jul 14, 2016
The Project NEEMO site and rover.
NASA Blogs

If you want to train someone for a mission to the International Space Station here on Earth, you have to find a place that can be…space station-y. To do that, NASA is going off shore.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk to a scientist who is taking part in this year’s edition of Project NEEMO.

We’ll also hear how students can stay smart over the summer…and spend an academic minute checking out the size of the galaxy.

University of West Florida

There are some events that a whole lot of us get up for. Sports fans love the Super Bowl and the World Series and the World Cup. Movie fans wait for the newest sequel or big blockbuster. Most of us pay close attention to the elections. But for a political scientist…nothing this year will come close to Brexit!

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk to a political science professor who is also an expert on European politics about the ins and outs and squiggles yet to come about the UK’s recent vote.

Know your audience. That’s something that writers and performers are told all the time. It’s also important for teachers to not only know your audience, but to also know how to talk to them. It’s called culturally tailored education, and it’s an approach that’s being used around the country to bring important information about health to a racially diverse population. Today on the Best Of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk to the director of one of these programs in western New York State.

We’ll also spend an academic minute learning what academics do when they are not academic-ing.

Bob Barrett

Remember when you got your first computer and had to make up a password for the first time? That was your introduction to the world of cybersecurity. That world has gotten a lot larger. Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk to a homeland security official about cybersecurity in and out of schools.

We’ll also hear about NY State’s trans gender bathroom policy…or lack thereof, find out if the water in the state’s schools is safe to drink…and spend an academic minute longing for your smart phone.

They always tell me not to start the show with number and I try to obey. But these numbers are pretty stark.  African American girls make up 16 percent of the school population in the US…but they are a third of all school related arrests in the country. Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk to a leader in the fight for justice for black girls in school.

We’ll also spend an academic minute looking at what the change in US-Cuban relations means for race relations on the island.

It’s been a while since we rang the bell and invited you into history class here at TBOOK University, and given the current atmosphere in the political world, why not talk about one of the most revered politicians in American history.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, Sidney Blumenthal talks about the first volume in his massive new project exploring the history of the man who some consider the greatest President of the United States.

Reporter tries on the Oculus Rift 3-D virtual reality goggles at Case Western University Medical Center
Bob Barrett

I said it before and it’s still true today: I love a good road trip. Earlier this year I took one to Cleveland, Ohio and got to see some amazing new technology at the medical college of Case Western Reserve University.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll see how virtual reality is saving lives today…and training students to save more in the future.

Reading is the core of the Common Core. For the most part, education cannot begin without a student first learning how to read.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk to the co-author of the new book Reading Reconsidered, which looks at the power of reading and how it is being taught on all levels…or at least, maybe, how it should be.

We’ll also spend an academic minute finding out what type of person is more likely to be part of the grammar police.

Elms College

If you spent any of your school years at all in a Catholic school, then you probably spent some time being taught by nuns. Over the years, more and more Catholic schools are turning to lay teachers as fewer women are called to a religious vocation. But there is at least one college in the northeast that is still run by someone called “sister”, not “mister”

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll hear a conversation with Sister Mary Reap, the President of Elms College in the Berkshires.

Every year, the Lumina Foundation, a national organization that monitors post-secondary education and works towards increasing the number of Americans with college degrees releases a report on just how many students have gotten that piece of paper. The report for 2016 has just been released.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk to the president of the Lumina Foundation about their goals, and how they plan to get there.

The Best of Our Knowledge host Bob Barrett chats with Ira Flatow
Michael Spooneybarger / CREO

Back in the early 1970s, a new network called National Public Radio hired a young producer out of college who had two special interests: baseball and science. And since the network didn’t plan on doing much sports coverage, he finally got on the air with that other topic.

Today on the Best Of Our Knowledge, I sit down with Ira Flatow, the person who founded NPR’s Science Unit and the host of the weekly public radio program Science Friday.

We’ll also spend an academic minute with the millions of cells in your body that don’t really belong to your body…your microbiome.

So how should we tackle the subject of autism, as a health or medical issue or as an education issue? You could make an argument for either. April is Autism Awareness Month…and we’re going to look at it as something people live with. And there are stories about all of those lives.

Today on the Best Of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk to the President and CEO of the Hospital for Special Care in Connecticut about their program called “Spectrum of Kindness”, which hopes to tell as many of those stores as possible.

Dr. James Krupa
Orion Magazine

It always strikes us as a little odd when someone talks about either believing or not believing in evolution. While we understand the theological arguments, and trust me we’re not getting into one today, the current scientific evidence shows evolution to be a fact, not a belief system. But still, about half the population of the US says they don’t believe that…and an article last year in Orion Magazine points to school systems as being the number one culprit.

Over the years we’ve heard about the importance of reading to our children from a very young age. Now, there’s research to show that just talking to children from the moment of birth can help their brains develop…and the number of words is extremely important.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll learn about the 30 Million Words Initiative, and how poverty may be affecting the way some parents speak to their children.

More schools around the country are emphasizing STEM education to help students get a head start in a world that is rapidly becoming more technology driven. But with all that science and math…is there any room for creativity?

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk about a group where imagination is the key to the destination.

Then we’ll hear about some nursing students who are helping new refugees in the US navigate the health care system…and we’ll also spend an academic minute with Baby Boomers who are having a little too much fun.

Space is hot. Yes, I do in fact know that outer space is icy cold… but here on planet earth, shows about the planets and exploration of the universe are turning some astrophysicists into rock stars. Well now there’s one who would rather be a star in interpretive dance. Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk to an astrophysicist who is putting together a multimedia presentation that’s out of this world.

Then we’ll hear about a unique program in Massachusetts that is helping high school students get a good start to the day.