Bob Barrett | WAMC

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. In addition to producing TBOOK, he is currently a reporter and on air host at WUWF Public Radio at the University of West Florida in Pensacola. 

Ways to Connect

Education Writers Association

There are two words that strike fear into every young student’s heart: summer school. But many educators around the country are trying to change that. In fact, the goal could be to have students ask to participate in summer learning. The federal government has earmarked billions of pandemic relief funds to enhance school summer programs.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll hear how summer school is transitioning to summer learning.

We’ll also spend an Academic Minute telling stories.

The Florida Channel

LGBTQ advocates are condemning Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s decision to sign into law a bill that bans transgender women and girls from competing on female school sports teams.The signing came on the first day of Pride Month.

Whether they are allowed to play sports or not, there are trans children attending schools across the country. These students, as well as all transgender people have specific health care needs as well as just plain old general health care. On this week's show we look at both issues.

NASA/Public Domain

June first was the beginning of the Atlantic Hurricane Season. Over the past few years, there it seems there have been more, and more powerful hurricane hitting the United States, and scenes of massive damage from the storms have almost become commonplace in the summer and fall. So to learn more about hurricanes, we went to an expert. Dr. Athena Masson is a meteorologist and hurricane specialist at the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network at the University of Florida.

Simon & Schuster

Any grade school student can tell you that Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. But that's not how Bell would have described his greatest accomplishment. He saw himself as a teacher, specifically a teacher of deaf children. However, even though he was raised by a deaf mother and married a deaf woman, many deaf people to this day see Bell as an enemy. He was an oralist, meaning he thought the only way to teach deaf children to succeed in society was to teach them how to speak and to keep them from learning sign language. This is the story Katie Booth tells in her book, “The Invention of Miracles: Language, Power, and Alexander Graham Bell's Quest to End Deafness.” Katie Booth is a freelance author and part-time writing instructor at the University of Pittsburgh. She was also raised in a mixed hearing deaf family. I asked Booth why she took on Alexander Graham Bell.

Silent, single-file lines. Detention for putting a head on a desk. Rules for how to dress, how to applaud, how to complete homework. Walk into some of the most acclaimed urban schools today and you will find similar recipes of behavior, designed to support student achievement. Joanne Golann, assistant professor of public policy and education at Peabody College, Vanderbilt University, spent a year doing just that. In her new book called “Scripting The Moves – Culture and Control in a No-Excuses Charter School”, Dr. Golann describes the good intentions and the unintended consequences of these rigidly controlled schools. Today on The Best Of Our Knowledge, we'll hear about her research on these schools.

We'll also hear more from new Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona as he begins implementing the Biden administration's education policies.

And we'll spend an Academic Minute exploring the final frontier.

Education Writers Association

When Joe Biden selected Connecticut Education Commissioner Dr. Miguel Cardona to be his Education secretary he fulfilled a campaign promise to name an educator with public school experience as his nominee for the post. Secretary Cardona took office on March 2 and has been busy trying to fulfill another promise made by the president: getting students back to in-person learning. Secretary Cardona has two decades of experience as a public school educator from the City of Meriden. He began his career as an elementary teacher.

College is expensive. Really expensive. I suspect you did not need me to tell you this. And it is a problem as more jobs are demanding a college degree. So what if college was free? There’s a growing movement in the U.S. that thinks it should be. That’s what Michelle Miller-Adams writes about in her new book called “The Path to Free College – In Pursuit of Access, Equity, and Prosperity”. Dr. Miller-Adams is a Professor of Political Science at Grand Valley State University, and a Senior Researcher at the W.E Upjohn Institute for Employment Research in Michigan.


One of the biggest holes in a young person’s high school education may be navigating their own financial life. But a partnership between a local Big Brothers/Big Sisters chapter and Navy Federal Credit Union is trying to fill in that gap. Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll hear how the program works.

We’ll also say goodbye to a classic cartoon creator, and spend an Academic Minute with a universe of chemicals.

In the three decades this program has been on the air we’ve talked about science and math and history and literature and education policy and theory. But not today. Today, we’re talking show tunes.

According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, teen drug addiction is the nation’s most costly and most preventable health problem. That said, nine out of ten adults with substance use disorder still report they began drinking and using drugs before age eighteen. According to Jessica Lahey, parents and educators need to understand the roots of substance abuse, identify those most at risk for addiction and offer timely, practical steps for prevention.

Taking over a century of children’s stories and assembling a comprehensive collection is quite an undertaking. Now, make those stories that were originally written in Yiddish, and you end up with an impressive package of all forms of writing and unique perspectives of the world. And that’s why we’re talking today with Miriam Udel.

Dr. Udel is a rabbi and an Associate Professor in the Department of German Studies and the Tam Institute of Jewish Studies at Emory University. Her new collection is called “Honey on the Page – A Treasury of Yiddish Children’s Literature”.

There’s a whole lot going on inside our head that we don’t understand. Don’t feel bad, there are a lot of world class experts that are just as puzzled about what makes the human brain tick. Bret Stetka tries to unravel what we actually do know in his new book called “A History of the Human Brain – From the Sea Sponge to CRISPR, How Our Brain Evolved.” Bret Stetka is editorial director at Medscape, the professional division of Web MD. He is also a contributor to NPR and Scientific American.

Rethinking Schools

As the role of teacher unions evolve over the years, some members are continuing to push for action.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, a labor leader talks about teacher unions and the fight for social justice.

We’ll also spend an Academic Minute looking at mental health and college success.

Nat Assn of Social Workers

Did you know that March is Social Workers’ month? Do you know what a social worker does? Not many people do, and a lot of people who think they do get it wrong. So to find out about how these professionals do their jobs, and what exactly those jobs are, we fired up the Zoom machine and had a conversation with three licensed clinical social workers from The Lakeview Center in Pensacola, Florida. Sandra Crawford is a certified E therapist, and a master’s level certified addiction professional.

Not every student learns the same way, but given the proper attention they can all learn.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk to the founders of a guide to colleges for students who learn differently.

We’ll also spend an Academic Minute with exploring the Final Frontier.

If you say “the thirteen colonies”, pretty much everyone knows you’re talking about American before the revolutionary war. But there’s more to that historic and geographic story.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we open history class and hear about West Florida, the forgotten 14th colony.

We’ll also spend an Academic Minute with fair weather fans.

Freedom of speech is one of our most cherished freedoms, and one of our most misunderstood.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, an expert in media law talks about the first amendment’s long reach…and its limits.

We’ll also talk to a northeast college president about spending another spring with COVID, and spend an Academic Minute with cognitive contact tracing.

National Education Association

As we approach the end of a full year of COVID shutdowns, teachers are looking to get back to normal.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll get the results of a survey from the country’s largest teacher’s union.

We’ll also hear a conversation about the consequences of behavior modification programs with Ken Rosen, and spend an Academic Minute with gender neutral language around the world.

Last week we talked about getting into college in the age of COVID. But once you get in, there’s figuring out how to pay for it.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk about the price families are paying for college.

We’ll also hear how the pandemic is turning basic training into really basic training, and spend an Academic Minute seeing how parents are coping with virtual learning.

One thing we all learned last year is that the coronavirus pandemic has dramatically shifted the college experience.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk to the editor of the Princeton Review about his new book that explains getting into college during a global pandemic.

We’ll also hear how the army is challenging students to find their inner warrior, and spend an Academic Minute exploring the future of cities.

The prison population in the U.S. is well over 2 million people, and that means a lot of families are looking for ways to heal and stick together.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll learn about P.O.P.S. - The Club, a school based program that helps students with an incarcerated parent or family member.

We’ll also spend an Academic Minute with young people dealing with prison from the inside.

There is a small but growing world of high-achievement education giving rise to after-school learning centers, spelling bees, and math competitions.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk about the trend towards hyper-education.

We’ll also spend an Academic Minute with superheroes and race relations.

Steve Sheinkin

Take one children’s author and one school librarian, and add a global pandemic, and you get a recipe for innovation. Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll hear how these two started an on-line game show that pits authors against the fans of their books.

You can watch the Author/Fan Face-Off HERE!

We’ll also look at some spring break research, and spend an Academic Minute with some artistic nuttiness.

HFS Books

Every year students around the country work hard, sacrifice and study to earn their PhD. But is earning that ultimate degree worth it?
Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll hear from a pair of professors who think the PhD as it currently exists is a relic that needs to be rebuilt from the bottom up.
We’ll also spend an Academic Minute trying to keep teachers.

Bob Barrett

You really do get to meet a lot of cool people when you put together a radio show every week. Earlier this year met an author and the keeper of his family’s business and that business is Dracula.

Nick Follger

At the end of most years, we spend a couple of weeks looking back at the important stories of the past 12 months. But this year, frankly, they weren’t exactly merry. So this year, we’ll just revisit some of the most interesting people we met this year.
We’ll talk to the artist who helped bring the Beatles to life on Saturday morning, and another who illustrated her own story, plus an Academic Minute looking for laughs.

Watch Ellen Forney's Ted Talk HERE.

World Almanac

There are many things that we have had to learn to live without here in 2020, but there is one annual tradition that will not be stopped by the corona. It’s the annual World Almanac and Book of Facts. The new edition for 2021 has just been released and it’s over one thousand pages of things you need to know, want to know, and had no idea that you wanted to know but are now glad you do.

Quinn Evans/Sandra Averhart / Brentwood Elementary School/WUWF Public Media

The past couple of weeks we have explored distance learning from the instructors and the parents’ point of view. Looks like it’s time to hear from the students.

Today on The Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll hear how a brother and sister are tackling the school year.

Also stories about music and art education…and we’ll spend an Academic Minute playing games.

Corwin Press

Now that sending your kids off to school means sending them to the dining room, people need guidance on how to make this new way of learning actually work.
Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk about The Parents’ Distance Learning Playbook from the author who brought us the movie Mean Girls.
We’ll also spend an Academic Minute with some good story based education.

Bob Barrett / WAMC

Two educators at a northern New York college are about to roll out some new workshops to help today’s teachers meet the needs of today’s students. Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll learn about this teach-for-the-future project at SUNY Adirondack.