2 1/2 months years old
2 1/2 months years old

Ever notice how when you ask new moms how old their babies are they always say 2 1/2 months, or six months, or 13 months, whatever? Until kids reach two years we always refer to their age in months.

Well, why did we get away from that? In the Bible Methuselah was said to be 969 years old. But like so many things that get a little lost in translation over time, they might have been using months back then, but you know how that works.  As time went on the story got built up in barrooms and herding conventions, and next thing you know people started believing the guy had actually lived to nearly a thousand years when in fact he was really about 80 (12 months X 80 = 960).

When you consider that life expectancy in north America in 1776 was 37 years, what do you think it was in biblical times? You were lucky to get out of your teens. So back then 80 might as well have been a thousand far as they saw it.

So getting back to using months for age in today’s world means you could drive at 200 (give or take, since 192 months is 16 years). You’d vote at 250, reach Social Security age at 800, you get the idea.

Let’s not stop there, though.  We ought to weigh ourselves in ounces and say our height in inches. Obesity wouldn’t seem so bad if even 150 pounds would turn into 2400 ounces.  Or just maybe, let’s go all the way to metric once and for all. In fact, that might be how to get track & field popular again, or at least make it a useful tool.

Hear me on this one. Back in the Sixties there was an attempt to go metric in the United States.  After three years of investigation the 1968 U.S. Metric Study recommended it.  Congress passed the Metric Conversion Act of 1975, and  the United States Metric Board (USMB) was established for planning, coordination, and public education. But despite all that spade work the idea didn’t take root.

The public education component only led to resistance, apathy, and sometimes ridicule.  In 1981, the USMB reported to Congress that it lacked the clear Congressional mandate necessary to bring about national conversion. And by the fall of 1982, under pressure from the Reagan administration, the USMB was disbanded altogether.

But they blew it in how it was introduced.  You can’t make going metric be an “eat-your-vegetables, it’s-good-for-you” thing.  It needs a little sugar to go down easy.  If a metric proposition was handled the same way today, you know darn well there would be an even greater backlash.  There would be talk of globalization over nationalism, Trump would get all Trojan Horsey on us, sales of guns would go up.  That, despite the fact that only the U.S., Myanmar,, and Liberia remain as the only three nations in the world that have failed to adopt the metric system.  Not quite the coalition one would hope to muster in a business world more tied together than ever.

Besides, it’s not like going metric would be a one-way street.  The rest of the world has come to us. They use English as the universal language for flight communications and international diplomacy.  In that light, we should use the metric system as a universal measurement. I’m not 6 feet tall, I’m 1.83 meters. I don’t weigh 180 pounds, I’m 81.6 kilograms, or 2880 ounces.


Sandi Morris goes 5 meters!
Sandi Morris goes 5 meters!

At the Olympics and the World Championships all the measurements are done using the metric system, which we then have to convert into imperial feet and inches. It’s cumbersome, and at this stage, fruitless. But we need to find a way to go metric that the American public can take to without going all nationalist again.

So here’s the trick.  USATF lobbies the federal government to subsidize track & field as the working tutorial to teach the metric system in grade schools and high schools throughout the nation.

Having been a teacher myself, I know that it’s much easier to instruct through example rather than simply reading. Going metric can’t be a math thing, but it could be a T&F thing.

Teach your children well
Teach your children well

By putting the bar of the high jump up at chest level of kids then attaching a metric measurement to it,  say 1 meter, kids will begin to associate the metric classification with an eyeball understanding.  Same with the long jump, ball throw, etc. That’s how it will eventually connect.

All we would have to do is invest in one first-grade class. Start there and play it forward. By the time that class graduates high school the metric system would be locked in. And with all ensuing classes using the same methodology, the system would be easily assimilated.

But the other consequence of that would be the reintroduction of track & field as a viable sport in America. We are talking win-win here, folks!  And all it would take is 18 years, I mean 216 months. As Trumpy might suggest, “what do we have to lose?”


5 thoughts on “HOW TO GO METRIC

  1. The British use metric in track…but they still use miles on road signs…how far to the nearest town…how far I ran today….my ex Olympian friends I keep in contact in Britain by email write of miles run or cycled…never kilometers..though with temperatures it is Celsius.

    We never switched because there was really no reason to. For day to day living imperial measures work fine….

    Having been a math teacher myself kids get plenty of instruction in metric and then never use it…

  2. Toni, some high school feds are already doing that, by running the 1600 and 3200 meter races! Like here in Kansas and we even have a GOP Governor! (How’s that work out?).
    I can see the conversion for football, “he just ran endzone to endzone, a full 90.9 meters!” (crowd cheers madly). Sorry, my sarcasm is showing. Being raised to be a scientist, sure wish it would happen, or had in the 1980’s.

  3. USATF (and NCAA) measure all field events (jumps and throws) in metric. Sometimes, they announce the metric to the audience, but mostly they convert to feet and inches and only tell the audience and the media the converted number. Just demand the original metric score. Mission accomplished.

    NOTE: Most high school conferences still measure the field events in feet and inches although track is metric.

  4. I was all gung-ho until you put forth the idea of USATF getting involved! And 18 years is nothing. It was 40 years ago that I was being instructed to learn the metric system & I’m still flummoxed. This idea has tons, I mean kilograms of merit!

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