Metric System

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JCasto
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Metric System

Postby JCasto » Wed Sep 16, 2009 6:42 pm

Model Congress --- Metric System
Debate: September 30, 2009


Contrary to popular opinion, the metric system has been adopted in the United States -- it is perfectly legal and acceptable to use metric units in consumer products (commonly seen is "1 pint (473 mL)"; all government agencies use metric measurements in their statistics and data reports; schoolchildren learn the metric system as early as in elementary school. The United States, therefore, is a "soft metric" nation, where the use of the metric system is encouraged in words but not in deed.

However, for all intents and purpose, almost every American uses the old English "standard system" (which, of course, is no longer the standard internationally). Our street signs read "SPEED LIMIT 65" instead of "SPEED LIMIT 105." We tell our friends that it is "65 degrees" outside -- that is, Fahrenheit, since it would be "18 degrees" Celsius outside. My gym teacher writes down that I am 6 foot 4 inches and 158 lbs, rather than 193 cm and 72 kg. And we buy gallons of milk rather than four-liters. We grow up with the standard system embedded in our minds -- we think in terms of inches, feet, pounds, Fahrenheit, etc.

What certain people advocate, therefore, is a better transition from standard to metric. The government would use its powers over the highways, school rooms, and commerce to facilitate this transition. Rather than buying "1 pint (473 mL)" of Ben & Jerry's, we would buy "500 mL (1.057 pint)." On the highway, signs would warn us of a "SPEED LIMIT 105 KPH / 65 MPH"... eventually omitting the second. The government would record school children's height and weight in cm and kg rather than in ft and lbs. Children would be taught the metric system first. Ultimately, within two or three generations, the standard system could be almost entirely phased out.

Of course, there are convincing arguments on both sides, each providing evidence for the logical and financial reasons to support either the standard or metric system. Some of these examples will be posted soon in the brief and in chosen links. For now, do some independent research on the debate, including its history, its current status, and its future. Be ready with a printed copy of the bill and plenty of research (with statistics, numbers, and FACTS, rather than OPINIONS) to make a convincing argument for your side.

Happy debating!

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Re: Metric System

Postby JCasto » Wed Sep 16, 2009 6:45 pm

Speaker List:

1st Pro: Ben Romano (sponsor)
1st Con: TBD
2nd Pro: TBD
2nd Con: TBD

Chair: TBD

bliang

Re: Metric System

Postby bliang » Wed Sep 16, 2009 8:15 pm

I'll post a casual reply for now.

The US is one of the few countries in the entire world that does not use the metric system. And there is really no valid reason (that I can think of) to not switch. Metrics are extremely easy to convert and they are the standard across the globe.

Metrics are also the standard system used by scientists, which means that even though most people use the standard system outside of science, they are still actually being used in the US. So why not convert the outside population to metric and make it easier for everyone?

One could say that it's much too difficult to switch, because people are already accustomed to the standard system. However, all we need to do is begin to use both systems and gradually transition into the new system. This way, we don't cause any unnecessary stress and accomplish our goal.

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Re: Metric System

Postby SRaghavan » Thu Sep 17, 2009 8:20 pm

I definitely agree with bufang;

The US is one of only two countries worldwide to use such an irregular system of measurements and this impedes several things:

1) Conversions become a hassle
2) Unneccessary confusions arise in daily events, such as measurements in laboratories; Things become a hassle to present to the outside world if constant conversions are reuired
3)Other countries might use this as an opportunity to view the US as stubborn or unyielding. While this is good in some ways,
the US has to learn to adjust to global standards if other countries are to view the US as approachable.

-These are just a few quick thoughts

-Shree

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Re: Metric System

Postby vallada » Thu Sep 17, 2009 8:54 pm

I agree with sree and Bu but it does require lots of change. I know Bufang said that it would be a good idea to gradually transition people into learning the new system and that is a good idea. The thing is that schools would have to start doing this at a young age because lets face it during the majority of Elementary school most students are eager to learn knew material. If schools start teaching it at a more mature age like to high schoolers half of them aren't going to care and they aren't going to take the effort to learn the system the whole world uses.

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Re: Metric System

Postby pmcavaddy » Thu Sep 17, 2009 9:06 pm

yeah but if we did convert to the metric system (which we definitely should) there would have to be a way to not just teach elementary school kids it, because even if older kids wouldnt care to learn it, they're the immediate future and would have to learn it. You cant just skip over kids not in elementary school, and how would you teach adults, who might even care less. Basically, you cant just teach younger generations and pass over the ones who are about to "take over" and run the country so to speak.

bliang

Re: Metric System

Postby bliang » Fri Sep 18, 2009 3:33 pm

pmcavaddy wrote:yeah but if we did convert to the metric system (which we definitely should) there would have to be a way to not just teach elementary school kids it, because even if older kids wouldnt care to learn it, they're the immediate future and would have to learn it. You cant just skip over kids not in elementary school, and how would you teach adults, who might even care less. Basically, you cant just teach younger generations and pass over the ones who are about to "take over" and run the country so to speak.

This is true, but the amount of effort is worth it. As soon as we switch to metric, it'll be just as hard to switch back.

There's still no reason to not switch.

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Re: Metric System

Postby swilson33 » Fri Sep 18, 2009 5:03 pm

People are saying that we need to ease into the metric system, and I mostly agree, but I feel obliged to point out that this is already occurring to a *very* small extent. For example, one liter bottles (again, very small extent). I am in support of converting, and, correct me if I am wrong, but the only main reasons why we should not are that Americans are lazy and it would cost an extreme amount of money to change all the road signs, textbooks, containers, recipes, etc.

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Re: Metric System

Postby galukal » Fri Sep 18, 2009 5:58 pm

I think any switch made should be started in the federal government and its property and areas of responsibility, with some kind of aid connection to tie it to the state governments. Maybe we could start demanding metric system use in nonprofits that receive govt. money, and use funding when applicable to pressure for the metric system.

I understand that the transition may be faster if we were to go after private businesses. However, I just can't see this as morally correct, or very feasible for businesses that can't afford it in the short term. The way I see it, if a business wants to sell in pounds and that's how a consumer wants to buy, let them. However, we could attempt to advertise and promote the concept of the metric system, in order to make customers more accepting of the idea. Perhaps we could also offer tax cuts or other economic incentives to companies in the process of making the transition to metric, in order to make it more economically feasible. If we need tax money for our programs? Find a way to slash spending somewhere else, maybe the National Endowment for the Arts or somewhere where our federal government should not be (this has nothing to do with our safeties, liberties, laws, or commerce, and wastes at least an average of $150 million a year ). Or maybe we could withdraw from the UN and stop paying 22% of the budget for an organization that tries to use international bureaucracy to legislate and puts nations like China, Egypt, and Cuba on its Human Rights Council. That would save some money for either the American government or Americans.

We need to offer businesses a choice but make it both easy and desirable for them to go metric. Otherwise we will get nowhere but waste a lot of money that we could have spent better... or not spent at all, giving Americans some tax relief.

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Re: Metric System

Postby egagliardi » Sat Sep 19, 2009 7:28 pm

This was already attempted back in the 70s and it didn't work out then either. We also have to consider the cost of converting to the metric system. Everything would need to be changed: street signs, odometers, speedometers, measuring cups etc. Frankly, the cost and effort of this is not worth converting.

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Re: Metric System

Postby BeWang » Sat Sep 19, 2009 8:34 pm

The conversion need not be immediate. We could implement a phased transition as stated before, and offer certain tax incentives to those who do convert and tax penalties to those who don't after a particular time (probably some time 20, 30 years in the future.

The fact that the United States is the only powerful nation in the world not using the metric system is very problematic. People talk about potential problems in terms of converting various units, but those problems are happening right now. To highlight a particularly dramatic example, the Mars Climate Orbiter failed due to a miscalculation of force. We lost a multimillion dollar spacecraft due to the fact that the USA uses the English system. Its about time we start using the same system that the rest of the world adheres to.

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Re: Metric System

Postby galukal » Sat Sep 19, 2009 9:13 pm

I would love to know if anyone has any hard statistics or estimates on the cost of a metric conversion. Please post them if you do, I'm too tired right now to search for them. Honestly, if the number is within a couple billion dollars, I'm sure we could find wasted money somewhere by eliminating or diverting funding from previously mentioned superfluous programs (Nat. Endowment for the Arts, NA for the Humanities, United Nations, White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, etc.). Wouldn't you rather aid commerce and our economy by going metric than funding artists using taxpayer money?

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Re: Metric System

Postby swilson33 » Sat Sep 19, 2009 10:11 pm

Here is one statistic, although not a very all-encompassing one; it would cost NASA alone 370 million to convert to metric from the imperial system, so imagine how much it would cost to convert the entire country.

Link: http://www.neowin.net/news/main/09/06/2 ... -to-metric

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Re: Metric System

Postby JCasto » Sat Sep 19, 2009 10:48 pm

It's like converting from fossil fuels to alternative energy sources: it's painful in the short term but will pay off in the long term.

As the world becomes increasingly globalized and standardized, it puts the U.S. at a disadvantage to be the only nation using this archaic, illogical British system. Even its inventors have phased it out.

This recession is a perfect time to re-gear. Use the stimulus money to require new roads have the transitory signs... that businesses use the metric system... et cetera.

Let's have some common sense here.

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Re: Metric System

Postby galukal » Sat Sep 19, 2009 10:54 pm

Again: Do it in stages, cut spending elsewhere, offer economic incentives for private businesses, and link this to all forms of federal funding and aid. We don't have to spend all the money ourselves, just as we don't have to give your NGO or community organization any money. Do what we want, or we'll cut you off (and then send the money to China so we can pay our way out of our debt).

Besides, NASA is probably one of the most expensive things to convert, along with the military. Maybe we could svae those for last while the economic, funding, and advertising approaches gain traction and public support.

"British system"- Josh

Yet another reason to use metric. Of course, the metric system started in France, so maybe just ignoring national origin would be safer. :)


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