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Randolph Russell teaches 'American History in No Time'

Brandon Paykamian • Updated Jun 17, 2020 at 9:22 AM

When Randolph Russell decided to write a short and concise book about American history and civics, he was surprised that there were very few comprehensive textbooks on the subjects.

So in 2009, he published “American History in No Time: A Quick and Easy Read for the Basics,” which he described as a “quick and easy way to get the basics in just a few hours.”

Russell said his book has been used at several colleges to give readers “a solid foundation in so short a time.” He said the lack of basic historical knowledge many have today “is a major problem in the country.”

“Everybody has seen videos of people being stopped on the street and asked things about our country that should be common knowledge,” he said. “There’s plenty of anecdotes to show that most people in this country across all age groups and academic levels aren’t familiar with even the basics of our history and don’t know how the government works. Those anecdotes we’ve all seen are supported by surveys and studies.”

Russell pointed out that a recent study by the U.S. Department of Education found that only 12% of high school seniors were proficient in American history. According to a poll by the Freedom Forum Institute, only one out of a thousand adults can name all the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment, and many do not know that July 4 was the date the Declaration of Independence was adopted. 

Russell said his book serves as a way to cover topics such as these in a way readers of all ages can understand and digest. He said many history textbooks in schools can be convoluted and dense, even at the middle school level.

“There are plenty of books on American history, but they’re all several hundred pages long,” he said. “What was missing was a short overview of our entire history, and that’s what I’ve done … I think it’s a gaping hole in the literature.”

Russell said it’s every citizen’s obligation to be well-informed about history and civics. He said learning about these topics can be an “enriching experience.” 

“You’re missing a lot out of life if you are not connected with the past,” he said.

Russell spoke to the Johnson City Rotary Club about the importance of teaching history and civics and the need to “reconnect with our national heritage” Tuesday morning.

“Thomas Jefferson said, ‘If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be,’” he said ahead of Tuesday’s discussion and book signing. “It’s important for the preservation of a free society for people to understand our history and have an appreciation for the sacrifices made to secure their freedoms and to understand its founding principles.”

“American History in No Time: A Quick and Easy Read for the Basics” can be found online at Amazon. To buy the book in bulk or receive signed copies, contact Russell directly at [email protected]

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