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English Education

Resources to support research in teaching English

E. A. Cross

Ethan Allen Cross, Professor of literature and English from 1906-1940

Textbook on a bet

Larson quotes John Bothell, a faculty member in education, that Cross "once bet a colleague that he could 'write a grammar that contained everything one needed to know in less that one hundred pages'" with the result being The Little Grammar. (p. 157 Shaping Educational Change by Robert W. Larson).

NCTE Presidential address

E.A. Cross, as President of NCTE, addressed the General Session November 21, 1940

"This business of reading, writing, and speaking is the one central, indispensable job of the English teacher....Everybody recognizes reading, speaking, and writing as keys to the locks of closed doors.  The treasure, the jewels and the gold, are heaped in a walled garden.  Language holds all the keys to that garden....If we English teachers keep our minds upon that one truth, if we teach all our pupils to read and understand, to understand and feel, what the poets, dramatists, biographers, essayists, story-writers, and novelists have written, we shall have made our contribution, first, toward the transformation of the schools from softness to virility and, second, toward preserving for America those inalienable rights, among which are the right to live, the liberty to think, speak, and act as a free citizen in a great democracy, and to follow a course that will give him, his family, his neighbor, and his country those enduring satisfactions that we call 'happiness.'" (pp. 194-5 The English Journal 30(3) 1941)

Timeline of contributions to the teaching of English

1906-1940   E. A. (Ethan Allen) Cross, professor of literature and English (also served as Dean, 1917-26, and Vice-President, 1926-31), was a writer of short stories for children in children's magazines of the day and a writer of texts about the short story:

   1914 The Short Story:A Technical and Literary Study revised numerous times; 1934 A Book of the Short Story

   1918 Story-telling for Upper Grade Teachers with faculty colleague Nellie Margaret Statler; see two of Cross's stories for children in this book: p. 153 and p. 239

E.A. Cross wrote two textbooks for the junior high level:

   1922 The Little Grammar reprinted multiple times through 1934 (R. L. Lyman's review of this title states, "Grammar done up in small packages is so infrequent that such a book as Professor Cross has recently prepared is an event.  Professor Cross's book is intended to present upper-grade or junior high school pupils only the minimum language essentials" which "the author carries out in a clear and orderly arrangement of lessons in formal grammar..." (p. 316 The Elementary School Journal, 23(4) 1922).

   1926  Little Book of English Composition (R. L. Lyman's review of this companion title was less complementary.  "The reviewer does not agree with Professor Cross's philosophy of junior high school English, which would concentrate the teaching of formal grammar in one year, preferably the eighth grade, and would teach literature two days a week and composition and language three days a week....It quite ignores the gradually growing conception that English composition is training primarily in ideas and in the efficient handling of ideas - that English composition is the principal secondary-school training ground in thinking." (pp. 630-1 The Elementary School Journal 26(8), 1926)

Cross also wrote professional texts for the training of English teachers:

   1926 Fundamentals in English and 1939 Teaching English in High Schools with faculty colleague Elizabeth Carney, revised in 1950 and later; Fundamentals dealt primarily with grammar and was viewed by reviewers as "noteworthy contribution", "sorely needed" and A. G. Kennedy remarked that "Dr. Cross's book seems to be a product of the revival of interest in the teaching of English grammar and represents a broader and more intelligent attitude toward the study of our language in the schools than the nineteenth century teachers had." (p. 428 American Speech 3(5) 1928)  Teaching English covers all phases of the English program and received mixed reviews.  Clyde F. Lytle commented on the revised edition that this text "has long been regarded by teachers as a down-to-earth statement of the objectives of the study of English and an analysis of procedures designed to achieve those objectives." (p. 114 Educational Forum 95(1) 1950).

E. A.Cross served as co-editor of a seven volume literature anthology set for junior and senior high school students with the help of his faculty colleagues Elizabeth Lehr and Neal M. Cross, who was also his son, and others.

   1943-46  Literature: A Series of Anthologies published by Macmillan; revised in 1951-54 as a six volume set; Babette Lemon reviewed the first three volumes and stated that they "offer selection which not only are of outstanding literary value but also are of a nature which will appeal to the interest of the pupils....The books are large and heavy." (pp. 502-3 The School Review 51(8) 1943)  The secondary level volumes were described by reviewers as "admirable" and "refreshing," but not without criticism about content and layout of the books.  The revised edition "attempted to give greater emhasis to contemporary authors, to include samplings of stories from other lands,...also the new volumes are 128 pages shorter." (p. 111 The English Journal 41(2) 1952)  A teacher who used the World Literature volume shares his thoughts and correspondence from E. A. Cross.

Expanded review

Martha Jane McCoy's review of The Little Grammar ends with these thoughts, "The grammar is in line with the newest thought.  No longer is there any place for the so-called language book which defeats its own end by combining literature, composition, and grammar.  Mr. Cross's book is a recognition of the feeling among educators that composition, literature, and grammar must be separated, that composition should be taught in the daily lessons in geography, arithmetic, history and physiology, that complete readings of classic and contemporary literature should be presented for the sole purpose of interesting the pupil, and that functional grammar has a place of its own.  In clearly defining this place, Mr. Cross has made a real contribution to the science of education." (p. 151 The School Review 31(2) 1923)