As you say, hun - what is "authentic"? I guess I'd put things in these categories:
- claims are genuine and can easily be proved
- claims are genuine but difficult to prove
- claims are false and everyone knows it (teachers are open)
- claims are false and only teachers know it
- claims are false and no one knows it
Of these, I guess the last two are the toxic ones.
I got caught up with a cult in the 1970s. I didn't know it was a cult until 10 or 15 years later. It doesn't really matter - it smelled wrong to me and I dropped out before the level at which the nasty stuff started. Many didn't. You're right about education being the key. But, at some level, you have to trust. Maybe the stakes get higher as you become better educated - and being let down is an experience that teachers can experience as much as trainees. Some trainees are simply seeking another "trophy" experience.