I pride myself on knowing a lot of important information. Sure, some people may think they don’t need to know that the “S” in Ulysses S. Grant stands for Simpson. But, I know it. I also know that ee cummings was the poet who didn’t know how to use capital letters. A lot of people don’t know who ee cummings was. But, I know him. I also know that botulism is in botox. I bet a lot of pretty faces don’t know that. But, I know it.
Just don’t ask me if a centimeter is longer than a foot.
I am teaching measurement this week to my fourth grade class. My principal heard the kids laughing as he walked by this morning because I just wrote this on the board:
I’m not the only one. Americans just don’t want to give up our standard measure. We don’t want to know how many kilometers it takes to get to Pittsburgh. We don’t want to know that a cantaloupe weighs about a kilogram. We don’t care. We don’t want to learn it.
The United States is the only industrialized country that does not use the metric system as its system of measurement, even though it was authorized by Congress to be used there since 1866. Yes, we are a stubborn lot. According to the American Central Intelligence Agency’s Factbook, the International System of Units is the official system of measurement for all nations in the world except for Liberia, Burma, and the United States.
The US was half-heartedly interested in conversion to the metric system during the 1960′s. I don’t remember ever being taught the metric system in school. In fact, nowadays, when I use a ruler, I get mad if I am using the wrong side. I want a ruler that just shows inches, thank you very much. There was the Metric Conversion Act of 1975 that was shoved down our throats. Everything was going to change. Well, you can lead an American to water, but you can’t make him drink. We rebelled.
“We ain’t gonna use that metric crap.” Ok, some people talk a little more dignified. I was the one that said that.
I know that somewhere along the way someone slipped us “liters.” We now buy a 2 liter bottle of pop at the grocery store. I don’t know when that started. I picked up a student’s bottle of water this morning and looked at the measurements:
Aquafina Pure Water 16.9FL.OZ (1.05 PT) 500mL
Why the hell would the “L” in milliliter be capitalized? Off to check another bottle:
Nestle Pure Life 20 OZ LIQ (1 PINTA, 4OZ LIQ) (591mL)
Well, the L is capitalized on that bottle too. I guess it is supposed to be like that? It’s not like that in my teacher’s manual. Of course, it doesn’t say in my teacher’s manual that Christopher Columbus slaughtered the Indians as soon as he got off of the boat, so you know, whatever.
I’m not done looking around my classroom.
Lysol Disinfecting Wipes 8.9 OZ. (252 g)
Lysol is trying to get me to buy in grams. Not going to happen.
I’m already confused when my Canadian blogging friends write about how the 20 degree temperature is so lovely. You crazy Canucks. That is cold. Well, it is if you use the Fahrenheit side of the thermometer. I will never be able to use Celsius when describing the weather. Why did we have two to begin with anyways?
Wouldn’t it cost a lot to convert to the metric system? For a person like myself, who doesn’t want to use the metric system, any amount is too much. We can’t get our Department of Highways to take care of our roads. I saw a guy fishing in a pot hole the other day. Well, ok, I lie. But, it would be nice to drive on roads that won’t tear up my tires and shoot everything out of line. I would get pissed if I saw DOH guys taking down the millions of signs everywhere just to change the “miles” to “Kilometers.” It is not cost effective.
In the end, I have to teach the metric system to my fourth graders because it will be on the big ole test in May. I feel badly that I have to teach equivalent measurements. I can see it now.
“Which one is larger, Tommy? 1 foot or 11 centimeters?”
“I don’t give a shit, Ms. Mendenhall.”
“That is correct, Tommy.”
I’m sorry, friends around the world, but I am too old to learn new tricks. I want to know how long it is going to take to get to New York City. Using “miles” helps me figure that out. Seeing 1,329 kilometers or whatever the hell is correct, would just fry my brain.
So, please keep your grams and your meters. I like weighing myself in pounds, and driving that extra mile.
Hallmark would have to change their whole “Across the Miles” line of greeting cards.
And we would have to change Robert Frost’s Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening:
…The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
It just doesn’t sound right saying……
And kilometers to go before I sleep…