The Best Of Our Knowledge | WAMC

The Best Of Our Knowledge

Fridays, 3:00 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.

Produced and hosted by radio veteran Bob Barrett, this show examines education from the classroom to state education departments. Bob interviews various educators about the subjects they teach, and will, every now and again, throw in a surprise, like speaking to the family behind "Dracula."

Twitter: @TBOOKnowledge

Ways to Connect

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.

Jaime Haggard/Jesse Borden / University of Florida

In the Fall of 2019, a class had two teaching assistants, one male and one female. At the end of the semester, the students scored the male TA higher on course evaluations, while the female TA got five times as many negative reviews. There’s just one problem…they were the same person. We'll talk to her about these study results.

Smithsonian Books

The Smithsonian Institution is the world's largest museum, education, and research complex. It is a beloved part of American culture. But its founder, a British scientist named James Smithson, never once set foot on American soil. So, who would do that? Steven Turner tried to find out. Turner is the author of the new book “The Science of James Smithson – Discoveries from the Smithsonian Founder”. While researching Smithon’s science he also learned a lot about Smithson’s personality.

Bob Barrett

There’s a course at Towson university in Maryland that teaches a class in positive psychology. Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll learn how this class stays positive during a pandemic.

We’ll also learn how a school system  survived a cyberattack, hear how machine learning is helping COVID testing, and spend an Academic Minute with COVID-19 and your singing voice.

Island Books

Protect the health of the planet and you protect your own health. That’s an extremely boiled down version of the new book called “Planetary Health – Protecting Nature to Protect Ourselves”. The emerging field of planetary health connects the dots between changes in Earth’s environment and the general wellbeing of us humans wandering around the planet. One of the co-editors of the book is Dr. Samuel Myers. Sam Myers is Director of the Planetary Health Alliance and a Principle Research Scientist at the Harvard T.H.

Harper Collins

What does it take to be called a genius? If you’ve given that any thought at all you’ve probably come up with some pretty abstract answers and qualifications. But in his new book called “The Hidden Habits of Genius”, Dr. Craig Wright, Professor Emeritus of Music at Yale University, has come up with some fairly concrete criteria for the genius tag. Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll take a deep dive into the habits of genius.

We’ll also get some advice from someone else’s dad, and spend an Academic Minute teaching in a pandemic.