“Learning can liberate” – Mary Pat Champeau – Institute for Humane Education – Sentientism Episode 91

Find our Sentientist Conversation here on the Sentientism YouTube and here on the Sentientism podcast.

Mary Pat (@mpchampeau) is the director of graduate programs at the Institute for Humane Education (@HumaneEducation & & faculty at Antioch University. Mary Pat has been in the field of education since 1979 when she began teaching as a Peace Corps volunteer in Niger. Before joining IHE, she worked in refugee camps in Asia & supervised culture & language programs for the World Trade Institute in New York.

In Sentientist Conversations we talk about the two most important questions: “what’s real?” & “what matters?”

Sentientism is “evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” In addition to the video above the audio is on our Podcast here on Apple and here elsewhere.

We discuss:
00:00 Welcome

01:12 Mary Pat’s Intro

  • Humane Ed Grad Prog. One of the only graduate level social justice progs that includes non-human animal protection (w/human rights & environmental justice)
  • A place where people can be who they are with respect to non-human animal ethics. Without apology
  • Humane Education’s focus on exploring questions that are central to Sentientism
  • “This is the next level… when are we going to open our circle of compassion – to humans we’ve never met – to animals…?”
  • Expanding both our compassion & our role in the world
  • Why do so many people committed to social justice / intersectional perspectives / resisting all oppressions struggle to consider non-human sentients?
  • Systems thinking & how oppressions (& solutions) interlink. From lose-lose-lose to win-win-win?

10:00 What’s Real?

  • “Hardcore, long-term, recovering Catholic”
  • Growing up in Buffalo, NW in a large Irish Catholic family
  • Catholic schools & public schools (per George Carlin)
  • “We kind of looked down on the ‘publics’ because they were going to hell”
  • “The 1960’s never really touched us”
  • Taking a world religions course
  • Reading “The Religions of Man”. Catholicism was only one of the religions! “Why is Catholicism even in this book?”
  • Peeking out of the nest for the first time
  • Living in muslim communities in Niger. “I could totally relate” because of the parallels with Catholicism
  • Rejecting Catholocism but being grateful for the vocabulary
  • Religious beliefs (angels, devils, god…) as “iconic representations of our psyche”
  • The human impact of the story of Christ. Finding spirituality in adversity
  • Easily rejecting & working against the negatives of religious (& non-religious) worldviews (sexism, racism, homophobia…)
  • Are religions slowly evolving towards more modern humanistic/sentientist ethics?
  • People rejecting evidence & reason because “it’s an obstacle to their afterlife in the magical kingdom”
  • The deep human needs re: religion. Can we meet them in naturalistic ways instead?
  • The dangers of scientific essentialism “Look where science was 200 years ago… using leaches!”
  • Religion’s role in war

35:57 What (& Who) Matters?

  • Nihilism, relativism, deontological rules, deity compliance…
  • I don’t like suffering, I’m pretty sure you don’t. Morality is my choice to care about that
  • Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land” – “he sees all these amazing animals… & can’t believe people eat them”
  • Stopping eating meat at 17 in the 1970’s, but not knowing any veg*ns “I just ate potato chips & apples”
  • “It put me in the realm of questioning other things – like gender equity”
  • “Trying to conserve the status quo was a death”
  • Exploration, discovery, travel (Africa, Asia, Europe), “sticking it to the man”
  • Having to be “supple” to navigate different cultures & understand history (e.g. colonialism)
  • “I didn’t even know the word vegan until the late ’80s”
  • “Going wider is a way of sidestepping… It’s easier for people to talk about the whole earth… than actually doing the moral investigation…” into how humans treat non-human sentients
  • Many people just aren’t ready to change. “They know if they really look at it – they’ll have to”
  • “We don’t have to buy into this idea that you can’t care about one thing as opposed to the other”
  • “It’s the same systems” driving multiple oppressions. E.g. animal farming & climate change
    “What is it we’re sustaining?”

01:00:11 How Can we Make a Better World?

  • Humane Education! “Why didn’t I think of this?”
  • “Why do we not use schooling to give kids the information they need to help themselves, other humans, animals & the environment thrive?”
  • “We’re in a big transition right now”… that’s why some are pushing back
  • Endless learning
  • Decentring humans, but recognising our power/privilege & using them
  • Risks of ecofascism “Humans bad, nature good”
  • Compassion for ourselves & other humans. “Embrace the joyfulness of this path”

Sentientism is “Evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” More at

Join Mary Pat on our “I’m a Sentientist” wall using this simple form.

Everyone, Sentientist or not, is welcome in our groups. The biggest so far is here on Facebook. David and I are already there!

Thanks Graham for the post-production.

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