Volume 25 - Number 2 - 1984 | DOI: 10.5032/jaatea.1984.02011


During World War II the British were afraid that Germany might cross the English Channel and invade Britain. The British defenses guarding the English coast were weak. In an effort to make the British defenses appear more formidable, old horse drawn artillery pieces were removed form storage and put into service. At night, these artillery pieces were pulled by trucks along the coast and were periodically fired. Five men were required to fire each gun. The British were displeased with the amount of time required to fire these guns. A time efficiency expert was brought in to see if the firing rate could be improved. After photographing each crew in operation, the expert was curious as to why two men came to attention before the firing of each gun and remained that way for several seconds after the gun was fired. Upon investigation it was learned this procedure had been taught to the men in their training. No one had ever questioned why they were doing it – they had always done it when the artillery pieces were horse drawn, two men had to hold the horses during the firing of the gun. Even though the guns were no longer horse drawn, the training of the soldiers remained the same; they were still holding the horses. The moral of this story should be clear – from time to time we need to evaluate what we are doing. We shouldn’t adhere blindly to the past without carefully evaluating what we are doing and why we are doing it. And now a few words about the problem solving approach to teaching.

For years the problem solving approach to teaching has been espoused as THE way to teach vocational agriculture. Generation after generation of agricultural educators have been exposed to the gospel of problem-solving. Few have ever questioned this “traditional wisdom” and those who do so may be viewed as being heretics. At the risk of being cast out of the profession these writers would respectfully suggest that we carefully and thoughtfully examine the problem solving approach to teaching. Perhaps we will discover that problem solving has indeed outlived its usefulness as THE approach to teaching vocational agriculture.

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