A(n Extended) Metaphor for Many of the Innovations Being Packaged as Educational Reform

I have somehow gotten on a daily advertising newsletter called Wowcher that is distributed by the UK newspaper The Daily Mail. I have not unsubscribed to the newsletter because with a frequency that has surprised me, it has included products that baffle me—products that I never knew existed or that have a purpose that completely eludes me. Here is one of those product advertisements:


Thirty Day Supply of Magnetic Tummy Patches

Your belly button may seem like it’s playing hide and seek from time to time, but today’s deal might just bring it out of hiding…

We’re offering you a 30-day* supply of magnetic tummy patches for just £10, saving you 70% off SalonBoxed’s price of £32.95 (correct as of 6.3.15).

With today’s deal, you’ll get a 30-day* supply of magnetic tummy patches. More convenient and discreet than traditional slimming tablets, these innovative magnetised patches could be just the thing to add to your health and fitness regime! They’re easy to use, too:

Clean the skin surrounding the navel using a warm towel.

Remove the patch from the packaging and the paper covering the magnetic “slimming patch.”

Apply the patch to your navel.

Leave the patch to work for 12 hours.

Remove the patch and clean the area.

Continue to use the patches for 30 days or until you’ve achieved your desired result.


I was particularly intrigued by why the tummy patches are magnetic. So I looked for some fuller information online, and I found this review:


Review at Diet Spotlight


Slim Belly Patch is a small patch that is supposed to be applied to the skin to reduce food cravings, increase metabolism and reduce your calories. The product description also claims that the dieter can lose up to 30 pounds in just 30 days without dieting or exercising. We already knew the supplement was making claims that were not supported or proven, but this claim is just absurd. Aside from prescription medications, extremely low calorie diets prescribed by a doctor or weight loss surgery, there is no safe way to lose 30 pounds in one month without dieting or exercising. Even with diet and exercise, that type of weight loss is far from safe.

The price for the Slim Belly Patch also reveals something about the product. It is listed at $445 for 10 pieces per box. We have no idea how many patches are in each piece, but we do not suggest any dieter pay nearly $450 for a diet supplement or, in this case, a diet patch.

List of Ingredients

Semen Cassiae Torae

Poria Cocos


Immature Bitter Orange

Scutellaria Baicalensis

Alisma Orientalis

Angelica Sinensis

Active Substances of Plant Extract

Product Features

If you want to use the Slimming Belly Patch, you simply have to remove the patch from the package, place it near your belly button and affix in place with adhesive. We have no idea what type of adhesive the company suggests the dieter use. One patch lasts between 12 and 24 hours. The dieter removes one patch and applies another one each day for 30 to 60 days.

The ingredient list is just as interesting as the application process and product description. Semen Cassiae Torae is an unknown ingredient. [My Aside: Feel free to insert your own off-color joke here.] We found plenty of supplements listing the ingredient, but none of the websites explain what this ingredient actually is or does. Poria Cocos is a diuretic. Maythorn is nothing more than hawthorne and bitter orange is a stimulant. Scutellaria Baicalensis possibly has sedative and muscle relaxing qualities. Alisma Orientalis is commonly used to naturally prevent or treat diarrhea and we have no idea what active substances refers to.


Note that all though the reviewer finds the application process “interesting,” there is still no indication of why the patches are magnetized.

So I thought I might have better luck with Amazon, since you can buy just about anything through it. There were about a dozen reviews of the product. About two-thirds of them were a line and a half to two lines long—the sort of innocuous endorsements that a product manufacturer or seller might plant and pass off as customer reviews.

I am reprinting the following reviews here because they are among the longest reviews available, because the first two are very comically negative, and because the third one reveals–unintentionally, I think—something that has become if not more common at least more apparent in the American psyche since the proliferation of social media.


Amazon Reviews

I tried this product for the first three days (one patch) and it seemed to work. The problem with its sticking and also the extreme thirst were understandable if not expected, but it caused overall body itching that turned out to be just unbearable! I emailed customer service to ask about this and they couldn’t be bothered to reply. Why would they? They’re getting enough money from clueless first time customers such as myself to a) acknowledge and research the side effects their product DOES cause, or b) share the possible causes of the itching in certain people, if they know.

Here’s some more things that sucked about the product: I was exercising regularly when I started using it. But then I started to get winded within five minutes to the point of stopping my exercise. Also, I definitely couldn’t fall asleep easily so I started a take the patch off immediately after work rule. That was much better than waking up at 3 in the morning to feel my heart racing!

As for the good parts, it did suppress my appetite. It was weird, I’d crave all kinds of foods like normal, but when I’d go to get something to eat I’d only get one serving of one thing and be satisfied. The energy level (or restlessness. Or “jitters”) I got from using the product was really quite the something. Before I started, my apartment was really in an ignored state due to tiredness after work. That first day, I worked a 14 hour day — rare for me — and came back and scrubbed my entire apartment clean! While all that was pretty impressive, it just didn’t make up for jumping up and slapping and scratching myself throughout the day (and at work, nonetheless) like some kind of idiot. Sitting still was no easy feat!

I won’t use this product again until I figure out how to deal with the itching.


I only gave this product one star because I didn’t have the option to leave NO stars! Not only does this product not work but the only thing that’s thinner on me is the skin where the patch used to be…and my wallet! I contacted customer service about the money back guarantee, of course they give you a whole 15 days to receive, use, and ship the product back for your refund. I was given some really valuable advice from customer service to eat right, drink lots of water and work out for 30 minutes everyday and if that doesn’t work, I should have my thyroid checked. Good to know they employ such knowledgeable people with medical backgrounds. Save your money!!


For the record, A) I’m a consumer and not paid to write this crap and B) Patches are a LOW DOSE mechanism for drug therapy. 14mg sounds about right for LOW DOSE patch delivery. I would be suspicious of a 500mg patch! If you are 300lbs, perhaps you should consider that your body mass needs a 20:1 tincture or 1000 mg oral dose. Oral meds are not completely absorbed into the bloodstream, the stomach breaks down quite a bit. You may be lucky to receive 14 mg through the stomach after a 500mg dose. Fact is, weight loss has more to do with your mental state and determination to lose than ANYTHING you take. You can take 1000mg of pure Hoodia and still find your way to the bottom of a pint of Ben and Jerry’s! It’s all mental people. These patches are meant for a person under 200lbs trying to lose that pesky extra 10-20 lbs. It’s not a cure for clinical obesity and psychological depression linked to overeating! That’s my two cents. If you’re a person needing to lose 10-20lbs and are relatively “drug sensitive”, this product should work for you–as it has for me. It helped me lose the weight, but it wasn’t the only thing that helped!!!!! It just took off the edge of missing that delightful apple fritter every morning. Ya know? (FYI: I gave this product a 5 star rating to try to bring some balance to its unfair 3 star average–not because it’s 5 star–nothing’s going to be absolutely 5 star)


Notice that there is still nothing about why the patches are magnetic. That aspect of the patches is somehow important enough for it to be in the name of the product, and yet its function remains as much of a mystery as many of the ingredients.

Many of the parallels between the marketing of this product and the marketing of the “innovations” being promoted by the educational “reform” lobby should be obvious. We know at a gut-level that the innovations that they are touting are a complete scam, that they are never going to work as advertised, and that the whole point of the “reform” movement is not actually to improve anything. It is, instead, an effort to turn public education into a corporate commodity. It allows the hucksters to transform any issue that might be resolved by thoughtful, meaningful changes in financing, policies, and practices into a largely unregulated opportunity for to make a financial killing.

There are no “money back” guarantees. Indeed, we have already seen many charter schools close up literally overnight. When the charter-school “bubble” bursts just as the for-profit online universities’ “bubble” burst, the public school districts will be left to deal with the mess and will have fewer financial resources available to do so.

The last review from Amazon is, I think, all too illustrative of many of the loudest defenses offered on behalf of educational “reform.” Almost no one ever argues that “reform” has actually made things appreciably better for most of the students and communities enticed into buying into it. Instead, the usual defense is that “reform” has achieved the promised results in some very selected instances and, much more pointedly, that the arguments against “reform” are being made by self-interested people who never really wanted to understand how it is supposed to work and who reflexively complain about anything short of miraculous results–even if they have received no results at all and have now lost much of the financial resources, the time, and the will to make much more constructive changes.

The person making this sort of argument presupposes that he or she possesses a rational perspective that most other people woefully lack, but he is essentially willing to over-hype an inferior product if doing so allows him to feel superior. In short, the person making this sort of argument is the perfect target for a scam artist because he very readily makes an emotional investment in the product all out of proportion to its actual usefulness to him or to anyone else. Substitute “ideological” for “emotional,” and you have an explanation for why many people on the Far Right so adamantly support charter schools and every other privatization scam.


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