Opinion: America needs to get with the metric system


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The metric system is used across the globe, but the U.S. has still not joined the rest of the modern world

By Parker Otto

I am incredibly proud of the unique atmosphere and culture of America. So many elements separate our country from the rest of the world in wonderful ways, including our multiculturalism and our epicenters in many industries. However, one thing that we Americans rely on that is completely pointless and is hurting several of our fields is the imperial system of measurement. After decades of dancing around this issue, it’s about time for us to correct this error by dropping the imperial system and completely being dedicated to the metric system.

The metric system, also known as the International System of Units, originated in France in the 1790s and quickly became popular due to its efficiency. With the system being based on units of 10, America nearly became the second country to adopt the system with Thomas Jefferson, a known Francophile, being an early champion of the system, according to the Smithsonian. However, he dropped the issue as he pursued higher office and Americans were resistant to outside influence, an argument which continues to this day against the metric system.

However, the metric system has never completely gone away. Metric measurements are available next to Imperial units on many consumer products, people run 5Ks and many students have to use those pesky conversion charts in science class to switch units from imperial to metric. 

In the eyes of the public, America is still very much an imperial system country. Everyone knows how long a foot is, how much liquid can fit in a gallon and what to wear when it’s a certain temperature in degrees Fahrenheit. If the units were changed to the metric system, far fewer people would know.

The United States is one of three nations, the others being Myanmar and Liberia, not to use the metric system as its primary system of measurement, according to Statista. At this point in our history, the switch to the metric system as our dominant system is necessary as so many fields prefer it, including engineering, medicine and science. 

Because Americans are subjected to the imperial system primarily, those who engage in industries that rely on the metric system are going to be disadvantaged by having to learn a whole new system and how to convert from one to the other.

In other fields, like transportation and construction, as well as in everyday life, the imperial system is completely pointless. The metric system could work just as well in any of these fields. Why would we use an outdated system when there’s a perfectly good one that is more efficient and used by the rest of the world? While the imperial system isn’t hurting anyone, it’s just a perplexing oddity that would be better if more of an effort was made to make the metric system America’s primary measurement system.

The best solution is to go in and actually make a commitment to implementing the metric system in America. While laws and groups have pushed the United States in a more metric direction, such as the Metric Conversion Act of 1975, they have either been abolished or not used to their full potential. In order to leave behind an outdated system and help the American people gradually get used to the metric system, the imperial system must slowly be phased out.