The Taiwanese society has an ingrained issue of bad taste in talents. This is why it is difficult to single out the expertise our society actually needs when judgments are based on the various assessments we go through starting at a young age. With the encouragement of parents, teachers and the society, the “intelligent ones” that exceed the evaluations often choose career paths that hold high socioeconomic statuses, such as politics or business.

Some even self-complacently believe that these are their destined paths and they were born to become leaders. But they don’t understand the lives of common people because they have been raised in over-protective environments that fostered their arrogance and ignorance. The tiniest obstacles they came across during their childhood can become “the life-changing setbacks” they share with the public in the future.

These phony elites often publish pointless articles in specific business magazines. Their backgrounds and experiences make them seem like clones; all coming from similar enterprises or being the next generation to someone. But they also love emphasizing how they started from scratch; going to a decent national college or some costly private one in Taiwan, and then making their way westward (U.S., Canada, Australia, U.K.) to be further enlightened. There they often major in unknown majors or minors and then stress they have basic-level work experience.

The media keeps close tabs on these people after they come back to Taiwan. From when they get married to when they reproduce, the amount of attention they get is about the same as when the first Taiwan-born panda cub was born. Reporters are at their doors all the time; if the interviewee is a woman, she will be asked about her health and beauty routine, and how she keeps the balance between her career and family (but still mostly about how she stays young and vigorous). If the subject is a man, he will be asked how he grew to be successful, and of course, he will be complimented on his taste.

These people all went through difficult childhoods that are beyond our imagination, such as learning to taste wine from a young age or having to travel thousands of miles to other countries since elementary school. So painful.

Last of all, these people often give young people advice through the media. These suggestions are nothing more than, believe in yourself, live LOHAS, travel, be yourself, love yourself, the things you need to do before you’re a certain age, the must-take credits in college and so on. There’s nothing wrong with these tips, but they’re just empty and phony. Yet people let them off the hook because of the overflowing positive energy in these words.

I think it’s fine if these phony elites are self-complacent or if reporters want to do some brownnose interviewing. It’s even all right if they want to hold some kind of personal development camp or training session and rip some money off the public.

But if this phony culture starts setting down roots for younger generations and worming their way into college or even high school curriculums, then I disapprove. How can you see yourself as better than others and become a leader if you have accomplished nothing but excel on a few exams?

I’m not saying leadership doesn’t need training. Guidance can indeed benefit young adults who lack self-confidence but are still willing to give it a try. But many of the leadership courses I have come across are very hollow. The structures of these programs are illogical; either they pointlessly focus on cultivating spirits through emotion factors or they require a core theme, such as creating a fair society, how to reinforce altruism or advancing towards sustainable industries.

What’s most interesting is these courses need large amounts of media and social media promotion and exposure to recruit students. It is also because of this need that these people record everything they do, which makes the whole package sound empty. For example, they start off talking about leadership theories, and then go on to how to enhance personal positive energy, and end with eloquence training and saying, “Believe in yourself.” I have seen countless students who have been seriously brainwashed by these courses.

These phony elites don’t necessarily retain genuine knowledge or hands-on experience, but they ignorantly believe they are capable of commanding and managing others. Because they have a way with words, they are able to turn a one-minute speech into a 30-minute meaningless presentation or even into teaching materials. Is this a real leader? Or merely a smooth-talking broker?

I worry about these courses. No one cares about real knowledge or technique, but merely want to be eloquent speakers who smugly believe they’re giving people hope through talking. They believe dreams can be built from words, and these courses will only cultivate a group of glib talkers that think they’re better than others. If they’re lucky, they might become politicians, businessmen or even esteemed scholars in the academic field.

Many things can be understood through chances given by parents, teachers, or even the willingness to explore. As long as you’re not afraid to do anything, then courses meant to provide more experiences aren’t necessary.

What Taiwan doesn’t need is phony elites that have their heads up in the clouds and enjoy lecturing people. And what’s most terrifying is that these rare life experiences can actually become models for young adults.

Translated by Olivia Yang