Episode 2013: the imperial system strikes back
The imperial measurement system is not just still alive – it may be staging a comeback, according to reports. Should school children be taught to use both imperial and metric measurements?
Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, is apparently making plans to reintroduce the teaching of imperial units in schools. The draft curriculum for England is set to teach pupils how to convert between imperial and metric
I can see some logic for doing this in maths classes; the interview for my first job in a DIY chain had questions on converting feet into centimetres. My customers were a real mix of imperial and metric users, but I don’t recall imperial being taught at school. My knowledge was probably more down to my ruler using both measurements – it was a 12″ one with a rather odd 31cm on the other side.
So, should we just ditch imperial and spend time teaching kids about something else? JD Baines told us on our last imperial vs metric debate:
‘Few teachers now understand imperial, whereas in schools in the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s decimal was taught in schools alongside imperial. One was taught the conversion factors as well, which were “simplified” on the official decimalisation on the UK – thus one could not go to a timber yard and get 50mm x 100mm – it was still 2″×4″. (50mm x 100mm is actually smaller!).’
Wavechange offered an alternative solution:
‘I am happy for kids to learn about imperial measures – but it should be in history classes.’
Your thoughts on the imperial march
When we last had a conversation about measurement systems, almost half of the voters in our poll thought we should ditch imperial units altogether, while a third thought we should keep our current mix. Over a fifth preferred a return to imperial. Some of the comments showed hard lines on the debate. Seares was ready to go metric; ‘It’s about bloody time.’
While David Ramsay spoke for imperial users:
‘NOOOOOOOOOO. I will refuse to use anything other than imperial and will ask for all purchases to be measured accordingly.’
John Knox was equally emphatic:
‘Imperial all the way! I still do everything pretty much in imperial. You know that the jars of jam and honey, etc. you buy are a pound in weight in the supermarket despite them putting the diabolical French measurements on instead.
‘A pint of milk is still a pint of milk and same for beer! We also know our quarter-pounder and half-pounder burgers!’
Popular abroad, the metric system is
The UK is not the only place to have converted from imperial to metric. Michael Glass offered a viewpoint from a country far, far away:
‘As an Australian I find all this angst about metrication quite appalling. Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and a whole lot of other countries changed without all this fuss and bother.’
Seares thinks we should go Dutch:
‘I’m in Holland – there doesn’t seem to be any problem here with metric, and they still have their own culture (and cheese). Why would we alone in our island lose our ‘nationality’ or ‘history’ or whatever if we used the system most other countries do?’
Finally, Swanseasteve pointed out that Sandringham listed its size in hectares:
‘If metric values are good enough for the Queen they’re good enough for us!’
What are your thoughts? Is the proposed move to teach imperial putting the best foot forward or taking us back by miles?
Should imperial measurements be taught in schools?
No, it's time to go fully metric (51%, 287 Votes)
Yes, they are helpful for daily life (38%, 215 Votes)
Only if they are taught in history lessons (11%, 60 Votes)
Total Voters: 566
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