Paul Theobald currently holds the Woods-Beals Endowed Chair in Urban and Rural Education and serves as Interim Dean of the School of Education at Buffalo State College. He is an accomplished educational historian whose work frequently crosses disciplinary boundaries and has appeared in such distinguished research journals as Educational Theory, American Journal of Education, Journal of Educational Studies, Journal of Educational Thought, Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, American Historical Review, Educational Foundations, and History of Education Quarterly, among many others.
Theobald taught in rural Minnesota public schools for seven years before pursuing and receiving his Ph.D. in educational policy studies from the University of Illinois at Champaign. He has served as an assistant professor of curriculum and instruction at Texas A&M University; assistant and associate professor, as well as head of the Department of Teacher Education, at South Dakota State University; professor and Director of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse; and professor and Dean of the School of Education and Counseling at Wayne State College in Nebraska.
His first book, Call School: Rural Education in the Midwest to 1918 (1995) has remained the definitive study on the history of rural education in this country for over a decade. His second book, Teaching the Commons: Place, Pride, and the Renewal of Community (1997), an intellectual history that weaves in philosophical themes in an attempt to build a new vision for educational ends, has been a veritable bestseller in graduate education classes both here and abroad.
Theobald’s latest book, Education Now: How Rethinking America’s Past Can Change It’s Future (2009), received the Critic’s Choice Award from the American Educational Studies Association. It is an attempt to reveal why efforts aimed at systemic change in the nation’s public schools have proved so futile in the past, and how we might use this knowledge to strike out on a different path. Once again using historical and philosophical analysis, Theobald’s research in Education Now seeks to identify the assumptions upon which currently ascendant political, economic, and educational theory rest. The interconnected nature of these assumptions, Theobald argues, makes attempts at change in one arena, independent of the others, highly unlikely to succeed.
Theobald advocates a kind of three-prong approach to reform, an approach that resurrects civic republican assumptions about the human condition, and in the process lays the groundwork for recasting America’s political, economic, and educational theory.