Two years ago, Greg Mortenson was hailed as one of the world's most beloved and celebrated authors for his book "Three Cups Of Tea," which became a must-read for students, soldiers and anyone trying to understand the Middle East.
His book tells tales of how he ventured into small villages in Afghanistan and Pakistan, was welcomed by the warmth of the locals, and promised to come back and build schools for the impoverished people and their children.
Because of its message that education can bring people of different nations together, the book has sold more than four million copies, aided by the fact it is recommended reading for U.S. soldiers deploying to the Middle East and for many, many college students.
Indeed, the College of Charleston, where my wife is employed, made Mortenson's work part of the popular "One Book, One College" movement. The school had its entire freshman class read it as part of an educational bonding effort, and sent several hundred students into area schools to preach its gospel as part of a literacy project.
Unfortunately, serious questions are now being raised about Mortenson, his philanthropic foundation, and many details within the book.
In a recent report on the CBS news show "60 Minutes," correspondent Steve Kroft revealed persistent doubts about the authenticity of Mortenson's stories of visiting remote villages and building more than 140 schools.
The report also delved into suspicions that Mortenson's nonprofit foundation, The Central Asia Institute, is being mismanaged and millions of donated dollars misspent, mostly on Mortenson.
Mortenson would not return calls to Kroft, dodged the reporter's questions when tracked down at a book signing, then slipped out the back door without comment.
The report was damning to Mortenson's reputation and sent shock waves through the educational community where he has taken on a god-like persona.
When asked last week about the allegations, a spokesman for the College of Charleston said no one at the school cared to comment.
Can't say I blame C of C officials for not wanting to discuss this issue. It is, after all, embarrassing.
This is, however, a teaching moment that the college should embrace.
Learning in hindsight that Mortenson's book might be flawed does not remove from students' minds the messages of how individuals can make a difference in the lives of many if driven by the proper motivations.
But this is the perfect time to step forward with some kind of explanation of the circumstances and provide an opportunity for students to talk about real life and how sometimes it's not quite what it seems. That if something seems too good to be true, maybe it is.
Rather than hiding from these revelations, the book's many devotees should recognize the dregs at the bottom of this tea cup and use this moment to arm themselves with one of life's most valuable tools -- skepticism.