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

We’re hearing an awful lot about ‘grit’ these days when it comes to education. The popular narrative is if a student has grit and determination, than they will be successful, no matter what racial and financial roadblocks are in their way. A long time educator has her doubts.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk about the new book called When Grit Isn’t Enough.

We’ll also spend an Academic Minute learning from our mistakes.

We try to get around here at TBOOK central. A few weeks ago we loaded up the truck and attended a two day seminar on character education. The event took place in New Orleans, so of course one of the people I met and talked to is doing their work in New York City.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll introduce you to The Urban Assembly.

For quite some time, the word ‘refugees’ has been met with suspicion and more than a little fear. The 2016 election season and result didn’t help that at all. But there are refugee families trying to assimilate and become more American. Now, a new book details a year in the life of some refugee children as they adjust to their new home.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll hear about that book called “The Newcomers”.

We’ll also spend an Academic Minute with children learning English at home…with an accent.

EL Education

Recently there has been talk about returning citizenship and character education to public schools across the country. This has caused some controversy as you might expect. But according to at least one national educator, it really shouldn’t.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, a discussion about character education.

Then we’ll hear from a mental health trauma expert about the aftermath of another school shooting, lighten the mood with some preschoolers talking about their favorite TV character…and spend an Academic Minute looking for the Abominable Snowman.

Humans have been telling stories ever since they could draw pictures on a cave wall. Next time on The Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll explore the long history of the written word, and how telling stories has changed history.

We’ll spend an Academic Minute telling stories through video games.

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

The man who introduced Alexander Hamilton to a new generation is at it again. After Hamilton, he wrote about George Washington and now he’s taken on the story of another American icon: Ulysses S Grant.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we return to history class and learn about the Civil War hero and 18th President of the United States.

We’ll also spend an Academic Minute going way back in history, to when early humans started thinking like humans.

U Albany

A professor was called in to help determine the cause of an outbreak of an extremely rare cancer in New York City. What she found took those scientists halfway around the world.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll from that professor and how she helped solve this puzzle.

We’ll also hear about a partnership between a community college and a computer giant…learn the science behind gene splicing to help cure disease…and spend an Academic Minute looking for a new way to fight Lyme disease.


When you think about alternative energy sources, one of the first things that comes to mind is solar energy. It’s not a new concept, and it’s becoming less expensive to set up and run. But industry and transportation still need liquid, chemical fuels. Can science figure out how to do what every green plant on Earth already can: convert sunlight into liquid, energy filled fuel?

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk to a scientist who is trying to perfect Artificial Photosynthesis.

How much are teachers valued in the US? There are a lot of politicians, media outlets and education reformers who can’t say enough bad things about teachers and teachers unions. But every school day kids around the country sit down in front of teachers dedicated to their jobs.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk to the author of a new book that explores, and debunks, the 19 biggest myths about teachers, unions and public education.

We’ll also spend an Academic Minute building a better brain…bilingually.

There are some amazing young people with amazing young minds attending schools all over the country and for some reason, they are just plain bad at being students.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll talk to a veteran educator about what it takes to develop the skills that help a student learn how to learn.

Then we’ll meet a refugee family who live in central New York, who are going to school and building a family in a town that makes them feel welcome.

We’ll also spend an Academic Minute with politicians and the media because no one ever talks about that.

You can have the most extensive education the world can offer and money can buy…but sooner or later you’re going to have to learn how to balance a checkbook. So how are states and school systems meeting their responsibility of teaching students basic personal finance skills? One college in Vermont took on that questions and found some answers.

Georgia Barrett

Well  we’re just about ready to put this year to bed, which means it’s time to look back and talk about some of the most interesting people we met over the past 12 months. That’s pretty easy when you do a program with the word “knowledge” in the title. This year was better than most: I got to meet the Fonz!

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll listen again to my conversation with Henry Winkler about how he deals with dyslexia.

Each year in late December, we look back over the past 12 months to find the stories we especially enjoyed telling. This year, we spent a lot of time talking about people with autism. We found out the help that children with autism receive both in and out of school. But school doesn’t last forever, and we found out that once they graduate, those former students can find themselves with little to no help at all.

Today on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll look back on our segment about what can happen when a child with autism becomes an adult.


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 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.