I finally learnt that the condition I have suffered from for the last 23 years has a name: Cognitive Dissonance. Maybe
you have suffered from it too. The condition is prevalent among active bible-believing Christians who are also
active in academic scholarship and a wide array of other professions. Early symptoms include an odd feeling that what you are learning
and doing does not sit right with what you believe and confess; gradually followed by a deep-seated sense of alienation from self.
Most sufferers progressively practice and (sadly) perfect the art of suppressing the symptoms from about high school age. For me,
suppression was brought to an abrupt end at a Faculty Development Workshop at ACU on a crisp June morning. The process of facing up to
the symptoms is painful, but in God’s grace, joyous and liberating.
Higher education in any country is marked by cognitive dissonance- yes, even in a country that laudably declares itself Christian. Any knowledge system sits on the foundation of a specific worldview, whether or not this is made explicit. The worldview that undergirds the courses taught in most institutions of higher education is not a Christian worldview. I can testify to that, having engaged in teaching and research in law, anthropology and development studies over the last 17 years, in three different continents. In some disciplines the approach is explicitly anti-Christian, despite the fact that virtually all the arts and sciences have Christian roots. (I also learnt this at the ACU Faculty Development Workshops, by the way, when we discussed Classical Education).
Something beautiful and truly transformative is growing in near-anonymity, right in our midst. You don’t need to go too far in search of proof. Speak to any of the privileged youngsters who just graduated from the second cohort of the Scholars Programme. They can tell you without a moment’s hesitation, what the cultural mandate is, and what disputatio is. Speak to any of the students currently enrolled in the degree program. Speak to any of the devoted faculty and staff involved in teaching, mentoring and administration. Speak even to the newly initiated: those who faithfully attended the nine-week long Faculty Development Workshops that were held between June and October 2017. When ACU is in full bloom, glorifying God in full view of the whole world of higher education, I don’t want to say ‘I knew about it; I heard a few announcements at church.’ Rather, I want to say ‘I was a part of it from its humble beginnings!’ My hope is that more than a handful of young people and their proud parents, guardians or sponsors will be able to say that too.
I watched with admiration and holy envy as the graduates of the ACU Scholars Programme, Class of 2017 gracefully received their diplomas on October 14th 2017. I said in my heart, ‘I want my daughter to be there in six years’ time!’ Why? Because I know that she will receive quality higher education, rooted in a biblical foundation. Because I know that she will not only become a skilled life-long learner, but a seeker after Truth. Because I know that she will be under the influence of people whose lives model what they teach and profess. Because I know that she will be mentored and nurtured. Because I know that she will receive personal attention, an extinct feature of our over-crowded African universities, public or private. Because I hope to do my best to ensure that I do not transmit Cognitive Dissonance to the next generation!