I feel compelled to get excited about World Metrology Day, which celebrates the signing of the Metre Convention by 17 nations. The event took place on May 20, 1875, but the county I live in never really accepted this form of measurement. The metre for the U.S. became, “Meh.” As far as I know the U.S. is the only country in the world that does not use the metric system as its predominant system of measurement. Ask any elementary or middle school student what a metre is and you will get a blank stare. Of course these are the same students who can’t read a clock with hands.
In 1968, the US Congress authorized a three-year study of systems of measurement in the US. The final report of the study was called, “A Metric America: A Decision Whose Time Has Come.” The majority of the study participants believed that conversion to the metric system was in the best interest of the Nation, particularly in the View of the importance of foreign trade and the increasing influence of technology in American Life. With the study complete, the U.S. crafted a planned transition to the Metric system and Congress passed the Metric Conversion Act of 1975. We all remember how well that went. I can still recall seeing the outfield walls of baseball fields showing metric distances. I can also recall the human cry in this country to eliminate this form of measurement as soon as possible. I think “new math” was more popular.
I also remember my father being extremely excited over Congress’s original decision. In fact, it wasn’t long before he ran to the Secretary of State Office and registered his first personal license plate. It read, “Metric.” I still have the license plate in my office waiting for the day that America embraces the Metre.