U.S. should convert to metric, sooner the better


POSTED: Thursday, January 14, 2010

With the present poor economy and employment situation, and the difficulty in making our students come up to par in the science and technology fields, now would be the time for the United States to make the investment of adapting the metric system of weights and measures — the system that the rest of the world already uses.

This metric system is superior to the old English system of measures using pounds, inches, gallons, etc. Besides it being difficult for our students to use in their classroom work and problem-solving, it also hurts our foreign trade and makes us the laughing stock of friendly as well as the not-so-friendly people around the world, who obviously take some degree of glee in our predicament of clinging to this outdated system in this otherwise advanced and enlightened country. The answer you often hear in our defense is: We put a man on the moon, so we are not that backward.

There have been many false starts to convert to the metric system, and it is understandable that there is great resistance to this change from the older generation in particular. Our teachers and professors have been supportive in the past, but have often been left hanging out to dry, as support of their efforts by the public waned due to the resistance to change. These educators and specialists often have to use two systems. This takes up valuable “;brain space”; and it may lead to costly errors. Manufacturers who compete in the world markets also suffer from the unnecessary complexity of having to use two systems: one for domestic and another for foreign consumers.

As someone who has lived under both the decimal metric system and the old English system, I can testify to the great advantage to us all if we were to dump the old English system. This would not be easy, as people are very conservative and slow to accept change. This change was made in recent times in the United Kingdom and Canada and other English-speaking countries. We can learn from their experiences about the problems involved in the transitionr.

After the transition is completed, we would enjoy a much easier existence. We would still have the 100-yard football field, and tradesmen would still have their 3/4 -inch pipes and 2-by-4 lumber for a generation or two, though the length of the pipes or wood would likely be measured in meters.

A switch to the metric system would create many jobs and help our corporations and workers and students become more competitive. It would meet some resistance, but it must be done at some point, so the sooner the better.


Hans Rosendal, a Kailua resident, is a retired lead forecaster for the National Weather Service in Hawaii.