Paula McAvoy earned her PhD in philosophy of education in 2010 at UW-Madison's Department of Educational Policy Studies. Since then, she has worked as an assistant professor at Illinois State, an associate program officer at the Spencer Foundation and as the Director of the Center for Ethics and Education at UW-Madison. Prior to this, she taught high school social studies for 10 years at the Foothill Middle College Program in Los Altos, California.
Her research focuses on philosophical and empirical questions concerning the relationship between schools and democratic society. She addresses two broad questions: What educational aims and practices are most appropriate for preparing young people for living within a non-ideal democratic society (e.g. structural inequalities, political polarization)? And, how should teachers and administrators make professional judgments about the dilemmas they face given non-ideal conditions? For example, what ethical challenges do teachers encounter when they engage students in discussions of controversial political issues?