Eye On Taiwan
Date: May 14, 2016
By: David Wang
Since the days of Confucius, Egyptian pharaohs and semi-evolved troglodytes and arguably Tyrannosaurus-Rex, all manners of bio-organisms have inherently engaged in oneupmanship to not only survive but often, as population rose and resources dwindled to intensify competition, vie for livelihoods that call for relatively less physical labor. After all and given a choice, most homo sapiens would opt for a desk job with enviable pay than a blue-collar trade as brick layer that could wreak havoc on one’s spine in the long term.
However it’s highly debatable if institutes of higher learning tracing its roots back to the days of Plato, Socrates were born because those doyens of profound thought were weaving lofty, esoteric theories to avoid plodding behind reeking buffalos or donkeys dragging plows in fields to cultivate maize.
Much has changed with the Ivory Tower culture over the millennia, but, according to an op-ed by a professor published in the Financial Times recently, the essential value of post-secondary education remains the same. At least with the schools that teach humanities and liberal arts but not the professional disciplines such as dentistry, medicine, information tech or computer science and mechanical engineering, whose graduates typically have more pragmatic pursuits in mind than to simply broaden one’s horizon and become educated people able to intelligently consider, discuss and respond to every issue under the sun.
But then came Vincent Tsong-Liang Huang, the president of the Nan Jeon University of Science and Technology located in southern Taiwan in an area whose name is transliterated as “Brine” or “Salty Water.” Its website, actually available in Chinese and English, impressively displays photos of the bigger-than-life campus structures, numbering maybe 2, in inexplicable multiples taken from various angles to obviously fill space and add to the wow factor.
Somehow such ego-stroking showmanship would not likely score points with even semi-serious post-secondary applicants to Columbia, Harvard, Yale, MIT. London School of Economics, Stanford and Wharton.
And the showmanship does not end with the NJUST’s website, its preeminent president, with enough formal educational credentials to humble the likes of Steven Spielberg (actually a high school dropout), Huang, appearing recently on Taiwanese TV not a day over 60, is clearly a die-hard fan of the Liberace School of Aesthetics, with overly-permed crown of hair jutting out like a springboard over his forehead to upstage The King.
Enigmatically Huang, despite praised on Taiwanese TV by one of the university’s staffers for being conscientious, is embroiled in one of the oldest scams in Taiwan if not on terra firma. A get-rich-quick scheme that would even embarrass whoever presented him with the “Kentucky Colonel” title, one of many listed on the website in addition to his Master of Science in Financial Engineering from the International University of Monaco.
The NJUST’s website, however, does not mention if Huang rubbed elbows with Prince Rainer and Grace Kelly while studying in Monaco, and if he shared insights on the timeless values of post-secondary education with the royal couple, in fluent English (the language of instruction at the IUM) and perhaps even French.
Huang also has a doctorate in electrical engineering from the National Taiwan University, said to be a top-ranked school in Taiwan, but apparently skipped out of the mechanical engineering classes involving transfer of static energy into kinetic energy, for he should know better than to drop the anvil on his own foot.
News aired May 13, 2016 on TV in Taipei says Huang and wife have raked in some US$187,500 over a few years by selling phony diplomas from fictitious universities and research papers (sold to lecturers who wish to be fast-tracked to tenured assistant profs or higher sans genuine effort) like hot microwave ovens out the back of a Chevy van.
And Huang, obviously making full use of his acumen gleaned from the Ph.D. in Business Administration from the NEUST State University, is a versatile educator as he even offers at his school The Department of Styling and Fashion Design, where students can learn the fine art of body painting.
Huang, besides raising eye-brows with his infantile, unimaginative scam, also bewilders observers for why would a man with apparently superhuman capacity to “acquire” a list of educational titles to outdo Mark Zuckerberg (a Harvard dropout) stoop to such degrading act? If money be the end of his means but cloaked in being provider of higher-education, then he is also guilty of being presumptuous or emperor-without-clothes, which suggests self-delusion and subpar intelligence.
This man with emphatic Elvis-hairdo-envy should have taken a page from Tony Ciabarra’s book.
The Aussie auto mechanic, a high school grad who probably can’t even spell summa-cum-laude, pronounce “occupe-toi de tes oignons” even with Chrtistine Lagarde holding his hand nor speak a word of Mandarin, came to Taipei in the late 1980s, after liquidating all he had, to dive headlong into Herbalife while living in a small hotel. In a matter of 5 years working 16-hour days, he built up a sizable downline to be a top distributor with current revenue of about US$80,000 monthly.
Furthermore, what does Huang’s behavior, maybe a Freudian Slip, say about his candid view of post-secondary education in Taiwan?
Actually decades ago a cartoonist may have echoed Huang’s sentiment with a stinging rendition that was published in a newspaper when he drew a roll of toilet paper of little squares of college diplomas separated by the unmistakable perforations.
Plenty of Taiwanese college-grads and many who have not had the good fortune, nor conventional wisdom, to go to university still question the value of post-secondary education for its return-on-investment or intrinsic value. While others believe the exam-based educational system in Taiwan, coupled with the traditional mindset among employers to prioritize hiring college grads, is a way to level the playing field especially for people from humble backgrounds.
As more cunning providers of higher education in Taiwan, as well as abroad, prey on the system and egos of yuppies in the Information Age to stamp out more gilded sheepskins clearly tagged with affordable prices, high-profile entrepreneurs and industrialists who have unquestionably contributed to improving socio-economic life on earth and for countless people, as Terry Guo of Hon Hai or Foxconn Tech Group (grad of a unremarkable vocational college in Taiwan) and Wang Yung-ching (junior-high grad), founder of the Formosa Plastics empire, Andrew Carnegie (founder of the American steel-making empire said to have never finished junior high), Henry Ford, and Martin Cooper (Motorola founder and inventor of the cellular phone), should be asked how much they’d pay for Huang’s forged diplomas or any from the NJUST.