This paper uses evidence collected from both written and oral history sources to present one approach to understanding the way in which educational practices evolved in occupational therapy. The paper introduces two fundamental positions regarding the nature, scope, and content of professional preparation for occupational therapists. For expediency, these viewpoints are labeled academicism and experientialism. This paper traces the interaction of these positions in the development and implementation of the War Emergency Courses. The implications for educational policy in occupational therapy arising from that program are also examined.