Why I Like the Metric System

I must like the metric system or I wouldn’t be at work on a documentary on the subject of its history here in the United States. However, that doesn’t explain why I like the metric system.

It’s not because I like numbers, in fact, math has never really been one of my strong suits. I’m more of a words kind of gal.

Over time, I found that I was getting involved in activities outside of work that used metric units. One was beading and jewelry making, which frequently had supplies  listed in millimeters. I ended up asking my daughter to buy me a caliper as a gift to use for things like figuring out just how big a 14mm by 10mm stone really was.

That metric use was forced on me.

At about the same time that I starting beading, I started working with essential oils for their medicinal properties. (Must have been in a creative period back then.) Again, many times I was forced to deal with metric units since many of my supplies used milliliters for quantities and I’d have to perform conversions so I knew how much I might be buying.

When making mixtures, I began by using my familiar units of teaspoons, tablespoons and partial cups. I suspect at one point, while I was measuring in one of my liquid measuring cups,  I ended up using those little milliliter lines already on the container since they were closer together and seemed a little more precise. And then, over time, I began to realize that it was easier to figure out percentages of essential oils to other ingredients using milliliters and grams.Image

I don’t know about you, but I can conceptualize a milliliter much easier than I can 1/5 or .20 of a teaspoon. (Technically, a teaspoon is 4.9289ml.) [*Please see note below] When dealing with essential oils, you’re usually dealing with very small quantities so milliliters were just much easier to work with in my mind (and on paper) than the much larger units used in our traditional system.

I just kind of evolved into it naturally and once I’d decided it was such a better system, I incorporated it into the essential oil classes I had started teaching. I guess that’s when I originally went on record as pro metric. That was about four years ago.

I’ve come across statements that say our students waste two years of their school lives since they don’t use the metric system. I suspect that number includes both having to learn both systems (most students learn metric units at some point in their education) but also having to use a system that isn’t very easy to manipulate since the units don’t logically relate to each other.

Isn’t it time that we reconsider how we are handicapping our children not only in how they relate to the rest of the world’s population but also how they relate to the world itself?

Note: An astute reader brought to my attention that the Food and Drug Administration defines a teaspoon as 5 ml so not even our government can agree what we mean by our own measures! For more, see the comments. [Amended 11/20/12]

7 thoughts on “Why I Like the Metric System

  1. According to your article, a teaspoon is technically defined as 4.9289 mL. This is actually incorrect. That is the NIST definition. But the FDA uses a different definition, that being exactly 5 mL, and that is the definition to which teaspoons (at least those designed as measuring devices) are made too.


    (viii) For nutrition labeling purposes, a teaspoon means 5 milliliters (mL), a tablespoon means 15 mL, a cup means 240 mL, 1 fl oz means 30 mL, and 1 oz in weight means 28 g.

    Please correct your document to show the correct value of the teaspoon.

  2. Dang if the commenter isn’t correct. I checked and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration for those of you outside of the country) DOES define a teaspoon as 5 ml.

    This just goes to prove my point that not using the metric system is ridiculous. If even our government agencies can’t agree on what the U.S. customary units stand for how can we hope to translate our measures to communicate with others outside of the country.

    If I had referenced 5 ml in a piece no one would assert that I meant some different amount. I’m now on record as saying that “conversations cause problems.” If we only used metric, there would be no need for conversions.

    I’ll adjust my blog to reference your comments.

    Thanks so much for bringing this to my attention and caring enough to write.


  3. Pingback: Be Careful What You Wish For «

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