Thursday, April 27, 2006

Why can't I convert?

This week in French we have been learning the vocabulary for measurements. Meters, litres, and everything else metric. However, when asked to measure specific items in the class room, my classmates (who did I mention are between 35 and 55) immediately turned to the imperial system, stating the hole punch was 9 inches by 2 inches. When it came to be my turn, I was all over the metric system, the kleenex box measuring 3.2 by 4.9 centimeters.

Although the metric system is the measurement system we use to educate our young Canadians citizens these days, I have come to realize that the large majority of Canadians are still using the imperial measurment system.

In class we were asked to explain the measurements of our property. For all my classmates they were happy to spout off that their lots were 70 ft. by 120 ft. (in French of course it's ...70 pied sur 120 pied) or something in that neighbourhood, however when it came to my turn I had no clue what to say - nothing, nadda, zip. The teacher tried to coax it out of me saying 'all we need is a rough estimate...please' - but I couldn't even do that. In my head I was thinking that 70 ft. didn't sound all that big, but apparently after talking to P it is a standard size lot in this neck of the woods.

The whole experience has led me to dwell on the fact that I don't know the imperial measurement system. I work in meters, centimeters and kilometers, none of this inches, feet, and pounds business.

I have to ask myself, why is my generation (or perhaps just me) so clueless about the imperial measurement system that many people use in Canada?

I started to have this conversation with my curling buddy, Yoshi (Alexis), and she said the same thing - she had no clue about miles, pounds, inches, etc. The men in our generation seem to be a little more equipped to talk the imperial talk, as I always hear P saying 'it's 2 & 3/8ths' ... or 'it's 8 and half feet'. To me that is jibberish. Its the same when someone says 'its about 12 miles up the road' -- in my head I am thinking, is that far?

I can remember when people would ask me how tall I was, I would confidentally respond 168 cms - because that is what it said on my driver's license. I had no clue whether that meant 5 feet 3 inches or 5 feet 9 inches (and apparently there's a big difference).

Thank god for this website, or else I really wouldn't be able to understand anything measured in imperial. I use it faithfully when shopping out of the IKEA catalogue, because they measure everything in centimeters, but when I want P to tell me if an item will fit on a wall, I have to tell him the measurements in feet and inches. Honestly.... why can't the construction world just switch to meters, and really make a commitment to the metric system. This way, myself and all the kids in school these days wouldn't have to go through the agony of trying to convert back and forth between the two systems. Or - perhaps the educational system should spend a few weeks teaching kids how to convert from one system to the other. I have to come up with all the bright ideas in this world!!

What do you think...are the days of imperial measurement over? Do you use metric or imperial? Which system is better and why? and finally... What should be done about the education system we currently have that teaches metric only?

Comments, please...c'mon I know you want to!