The metric system

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Joplin (Mo.) Globe

Metrication. It means transition to the metric system of measurements. And so far, the United States has resisted joining just about everyone else in the world in requiring the use of the metric system in all segments of manufacturing and, for that matter, society.

Americans traditionally have been opposed to making everything metric from kilometers on road signs to millimeters in lengths and milliliters in volumes.

Maybe it is our independent nature. Inches, ounces and gallons have served us well over the two centuries-plus of our existence and, despite our perceived stubborn resistance to officially converting to metric, we are the world's only remaining superpower.

Actually, it can be argued that some European nations might not have gone metric had it not been for the creation of the European Union and the subsequent standardization in measurements that it brought.

Critics have claimed there is the danger that not being officially metric could hamper our trade with the world. But metric is used for many, if not all, products being exported by U.S. companies. And here at home, we remain steadfastly nonmetric.

There is no federal law that requires Americans to adopt metric at the gasoline pump, for their automobile engines or in our sports. Yet schoolchildren have been learning the system for years and may be as conversant with it as standard measurements. Charts and books about metric abound in plants, shops and bookstores. Eventually, Americans may embrace metric like everyone else, much like English has become the global language of trade. But until then, Springfield will remain 70-plus miles from Joplin, 16 ounces will be a pound and 12 inches, a foot.

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