Message in a Bottle

When Josh Baker was 10 years old, he dumped an entire bottle of his mother’s vanilla extract down the sink. He then wrote a quick note that said, “My name is Josh Baker. I’m 10. If you find this, put it on the news. The date is April 16, 1995.” He stuffed the note inside the empty extract bottle and threw it into Wisconsin’s White Lake.

Life went on and, after high school, Josh signed up for the Marines. During his tour of duty in Iraq, he survived the dangers of fighting door-to-door in Fallujah and made it back home to the U.S. safe and sound. Tragically, shortly after his homecoming, Josh was killed in a car accident, leaving his family and friends devastated and asking the obvious question, “Why?”

A few months later, Steve Lieder and Robert Duncan, friends of Josh’s, were walking on the banks of White Lake, when they saw something glimmer on the water. After fishing it out, they realized it was a vanilla extract bottle with a piece of paper inside.

To friends and family, the message from 10-year-old Josh appeared when they needed it most. It felt as though he was reaching out, letting them know that he was watching, and trying to help them move on. This message of hope is currently displayed in the Bakers’ home as a constant reminder that their son is still with them, even though he’s gone.

Excerpted from "5 Amazing Stories of Messages in Bottles," which originally appeared here in 2009.

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College Board Wants to Erase Thousands of Years From AP World History, and Teachers Aren't Happy
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One would be forgiven for thinking that the Ides of March are upon us, because Julius Caesar is being taken out once again—this time from the Advanced Placement World History exam. The College Board in charge of the AP program is planning to remove the Roman leader, and every other historical figure who lived and died prior to 1450, from high school students’ tests, The New York Times reports.

The nonprofit board recently announced that it would revise the test, beginning in 2019, to make it more manageable for teachers and students alike. The current exam covers over 10,000 years of world history, and according to the board, “no other AP course requires such an expanse of content to be covered over a single school year.”

As an alternative, the board suggested that schools offer two separate year-long courses to cover the entirety of world history, including a Pre-AP World History and Geography class focusing on the Ancient Period (before 600 BCE) up through the Postclassical Period (ending around 1450). However, as Politico points out, a pre-course for which the College Board would charge a fee "isn’t likely to be picked up by cash-strapped public schools," and high school students wouldn't be as inclined to take the pre-AP course since there would be no exam or college credit for it.

Many teachers and historians are pushing back against the proposed changes and asking the board to leave the course untouched. Much of the controversy surrounds the 1450 start date and the fact that no pre-colonial history would be tested.

“They couldn’t have picked a more Eurocentric date,” Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, who previously helped develop AP History exams and courses, told The New York Times. “If you start in 1450, the first thing you’ll talk about in terms of Africa is the slave trade. The first thing you’ll talk about in terms of the Americas is people dying from smallpox and other things. It’s not a start date that encourages looking at the agency and creativity of people outside Europe.”

A group of teachers who attended an AP open forum in Salt Lake City also protested the changes. One Michigan educator, Tyler George, told Politico, “Students need to understand that there was a beautiful, vast, and engaging world before Europeans ‘discovered’ it.”

The board is now reportedly reconsidering its decision and may push the start date of the course back some several hundred years. Their decision will be announced in July.

[h/t The New York Times]

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North America: East or West Coast?
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