A few years ago, my wife and I took our two daughters to see the 50th Anniversary edition of the Walt Disney film, Fantasia. The theater was crowded with parents, young children, teenagers, and young adults, most of whom obviously loved the movie—from Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer's Apprentice to the unicorns dancing to Beethoven. After each of the musical and visual segments, applause would break out in the audience, and at the end of the film, a large round of applause echoed throughout the theater. Yet, over 50 years ago, when the film first came out, the public rejection was severe, badly demoralizing Walt Disney and his gifted animators. The film languished as Disney's greatest failure for over 20 years (Solomon, 1990, pp. 3, 92–93). Then something happened. In the late 1960s, the film found an adoring mass audience that continues through today and has made it a popular classic. The film stayed the same. It was the audience who changed.
Crossing Over is about that changed audience, the children and teenagers currently in schools, and the next student generation. It was written to enable teachers to help these young people navigate and interpret a complex world characterized by a sophisticated and multifaceted communications web. It is about teaching English and language arts in today's world—one that includes talk and print but also includes computers and television and film. A world where talk can occur between people 10,000 miles apart connected by telephone receivers and a communications satellite; a world where print may be as fresh as the instantaneous thoughts of the writer and the microseconds the computer or the fax machine requires from sender to receiver; a world where a basketball game ends at 11:00 p.m. in New York and is reported in California newspapers the next morning; a world where television offers 300 channels and thousands of video choices; and a world dominated by computers with instant messages and chat rooms, with the World Wide Web offering immediate home access to commerce, information, and entertainment, creating communication systems undreamed of by previous generations.