Let’s, for a moment, set aside how important it is to get medication doses correct and ask the more basic question “Why does it really matter what measurement system we use?”
My answer to that question might shock you: Fundamentally, it doesn’t.
What really matters is that people working together use the same one. What the metric system has going for it is that it was designed for all of the units logically interrelate to each other. That last point is a big deal.
Back before the world was so integrated it was less of a problem if each little hamlet developed and used its own measures.
The way I like to put it is: “So how tall is it?” one peasant asks another.
“Why, it’s as tall as Larry’s door,” answers the friend. They’ve both been to Larry’s house and can use that as a point of reference.
To say that’s Larry’s door could now become the standard of length/height for that community really isn’t that far off.
Under this scenario, the only people for whom that would really cause a problem would be for the traders who’d have to learn multiple units to deal with multiple localities as they sold their wares. It was also a way of keeping outsiders out since their lack of familiarity with the regional units would immediately make them stand out.
For reasons that I’ll explore in my documentary, we continue to isolate ourselves, and handicap our children, through our lack of metric adoption.
The units we currently use in this country are not only a mishmash of almost totally unrelated units that were cobbled together but we’ve put ourselves totally out of step with the rest of the industrial world.
Metric units are streamlined and basic. Easy to learn and apply. That’s why almost everyone else in the world has adopted them.
While I have enlisted an American culture expert to interview to help address why we’ve been so resistant to such a change, I suspect that there are multiple reasons for our behavior on this issue in the past. The poll that ran on this topic previously to helped identify them.
Recycling our past
As we move toward metric adoption, we’ll find ourselves with items we no longer need. Mostly what comes to my mind are the measuring cups we use for dry ingredients in the kitchen (in a metric world, grams are the necessary and superior way to go). It’s also possible that people might still have liquid measuring cups without milliliters but they’d probably have to be pretty old or rulers (or tape measures) that don’t have metric measures on them. (Not sure what the cutoff date for such items might have been…the 1970s when we had our last metric push? Might need to investigate this some more.) Items like wrenches in U.S. customary units also come to mind.
Earlier this week I came across the above image of a clutch made from measuring tapes and got to thinking about what we could do with non-metric items we’d longer need. (I know I currently have a tape measure with inches on one side. It looks like the item above uses both metric and nonmetric.)
In the meantime, feel free to share your ideas of what other items we’ll need to try to recycle into something useful or interesting (maybe even beautiful) once we’ve adopted the metric system in this country and even your ideas of how to do it.
I wouldn’t ask you to do anything that I’m not willing to do myself and I have an idea for something to do with my dry measuring cups that just came to me so I’ll try to get that put together up for my next post.
Want to share your ideas of what other things we’ll not need in a fully metric world? Feel free to add them to the comments section.
Want to share an image of possible way to use old, nonmetric items using one of many reputable filesharing sites? (I’d recommend Imgur http://imgur.com/ or Photobucket http://photobucket.com/ feel free.* Or even post to my twitter account: https://twitter.com/milebehind. Who knows, maybe I’ll add your ideas to my “Hall of Fame.”
I look forward to hearing from you!
* Just please don’t send me image files. I won’t open them for security reasons.
The clutch image from http://www.perpetualkid.com/tape-measure-zippered-bag.aspx
Metric tape measure photo: Simon A. Eugster