Rome and Seven Hills Rotarians lined up to purchase Randolph G. Russell’s 120-page paperback “American History in No Time: A Quick & Easy Read for the Basics” after Russell gave a brief talk about the book and played a soulful rendition of “America the Beautiful” during a joint Rotary meeting Thursday at Coosa Country Club.
Although Rome Rotary President Harvey Wise told those gathered in the ballroom that Rotaries normally discourage book sales at their meetings, a decision had been made to allow members to obtain copies “in light of this particular subject.”
“I think you will find it very interesting,” Wise said. “I have my copy.”
Russell, also a professional musician, said he’s talked to 100 Rotary groups around the country, but never a combined group. He explained he was inspired to write the book after he realized that a study by the U.S. Department of Education found that only 12% of high school seniors are proficient in American history and that for 50 higher ed institutions where seniors were tested by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, the average grade was an “F.”
“Among the general public, only one out of a thousand adults can name the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment,” Russell said of a poll by the Freedom Forum Institute.
This ignorance can be seen on late-night talk shows when young passersby are quizzed on the street.
“Jimmy Kimmel asked people if they could name the first ships that sailed on Columbus’ first voyage. Among the best answers were ‘the ninja, the pina colada and the santa margarita,’” he said. “Now if these were just isolated incidents of people on the fringe of society being put on the spot, we could simply laugh or feel embarrassed for the person and not give it another thought. But that’s not what’s going on.”
Russell blamed this pervasive lack of knowledge about our country’s history on the failure of both educators and parents to first teach the foundations as a broader picture before delving into details that don’t seem to have significance.
“All of us need a refresher every now and then, but I’m confident that most — if not all — of us here consider it our civic duty and even a family responsibility to be familiar enough with our nation’s history to be able to pass it down to our children, grandchildren and others,” he said, suggesting following the example of a friend of his who reads small bits of his book aloud to his family during dinner. “Everyone loves a good story and getting someone interested in knowing about our past should be no more difficult than getting them to go see a good movie because our history provides an unlimited supply of amazing stories.”