The Instigator
Pro (for)
The Contender
Con (against)

The United States Should Adapt the Metric System as its Official System of Weights and Measures

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/26/2017 Category: Politics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 665 times Debate No: 99353
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (4)
Votes (0)




First round's acceptance.

Metric system: SI Units, including (but not limited to) meters, grams, and liters.


(CNN)There is much to be admired about presidential candidate Lincoln Chafee's willingness to take unconventional political stands. But as he announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination on Thursday there was one proposal I wish he hadn't suggested: that America should switch to the metric system.

The idea that we should change our daily system of weights and measures is certainly bold. However, Chafee's putting it forth as a kind of apology to the world for the last dozen years of U.S. international behavior -- rather than on the basis of how much it would cost the American people and what benefits it would bring them -- is staggeringly wrong-headed.
Don't get me wrong -- the metric system is one of the greatest tools ever invented. It is already the first language of measurement in science classes around the country. The first time I ever heard my kindergarten daughter use a measure, it was for something that she said stood "about four meters off the ground". (She also likes soccer.)
The metric system is as preeminent in American industry as it is in schools. Manufacturers in this country made a massive push toward the metric system in the early 1970s, which became part of a drive to take the nation metric as a whole. Then-President Gerald Ford signed the Metric Conversion Act in 1975. The main resistance -- aside from everyday citizens -- came from the unions, who feared that a switch to an international system of measurement would make it easier for big corporations to ship jobs offshore. (They were right.)
The spread of the metric system is a triumph not of science but international capitalism. Nowhere was it adopted out of idealism and pure reason. If it had been, the 10-hour clock -- another component of the original metric system -- would've been adopted too.
With U.S. competitiveness not at stake, what reason is there for America to switch? In an age when we can say "three feet to meters" and our smartphone immediately tells us .9144m, it can't be about making conversion easy.
Why America is so anti-metric
The only reason for us to switch is exactly the one Chafee brings up -- that it would be "good for our international reputation." Yet beyond this being of questionable logic -- would it really net enough good PR to justify the billions in dollars it would cost us to convert? -- there is the underlying notion that it is bad for us to be out step with the rest of the world.
Isn't the world already becoming the same enough? The typical progressive response would be yes, it is, and we need to save and savor our differences. This makes the disregard that many otherwise progressive folks have toward our customary measures so puzzling. If one regrets languages and dialects dying out by the hundreds, why would that person then want to put to rest our own language of measurement? If he or she fears that a piece of world heritage might be destroyed at Palmyra by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, why would they be so quick to condemn to the dustbin a piece of world heritage safeguarded by our own culture? And world heritage it certainly is: our customary measures encompass ways of measurement that date to pre-history and were in continuous use in every culture, everywhere prior to the metric system's global dominance.
A move to the meter is not a vote for open-mindedness. That has been clear to me every time I have been scolded by a European or South American on the stupidity of a system that divides by twelfths and sixteenths rather than tenths.
I readily admit that the decimal math of the metric system is easier, but not that it is in all ways better. The fact is that decimals are lousy at real-life division. Try cutting an orange or a pizza into five or ten slices. Two of the most basic fractions are the third and the quarter. A third and quarter of a foot are four and three inches; the same for a meter are 25cm and .33333-on-to-infinity cm.
In a time when our world is becoming ever-more abstract and artificial, it is ever-more important that we keep a grip on what is essential and real.
Think of trying to remember different units another way. Learning other languages isn't only a benefit in the international workplace, it makes you realize that there is more than one way to approach everything in this world. The same goes for learning two systems of measurement. It allows us to recognize that distance, weight, and volume can be measured and conceived of in more than one way. Those who have grown up with only the metric system find this an alien and unpleasant concept. But don't blame them -- they've only ever had to learn one system. In the 21st century, Americans have to learn two. That's an advantage that Lincoln Chafee should embrace.
Debate Round No. 1


Con's whole argument is just copied from its original source, but I'll respond anyways as I set no official rule against it. I also meant for the first round to be acceptance only, but forgot the word "only", so I'll let that slide.

The fundamental problem with Con's argument is that it's void of any real argument. Con makes a lot of assertions, but fails to properly frame them into arguments. A few bare assertions made were that going metric would make it easier for companies to ship jobs overseas and that it would cost billions of dollars. If Con provides evidence to these points, I will have the chance to respond, but as of right now, there is absolutely zero proof that this would be the case.

Con's argument alludes to the idea that switching to the metric system would be destroying a piece of heritage. However, Con does not give any reason why we should care, just implies that if we care about the death of ancient languages and dialects, then we should care about the US switching to the metric system.

Con then makes an argument that decimals are difficult to deal with in real life, giving two examples: taking one third and one quarter of a number. Con argues that because one third of a foot is 4 inches and a quarter of a foot is 3 inches, while one third of a meter is 0.33... centimeters and a quarter of a meter is 25 centimeters, the imperial system is superior to use in daily life. However, one can just as easily say "one third of a meter" or "one quarter of a meter", it would be a very simple adjustment. Moreover, Con says "Try cutting an orange or a pizza into five or ten slices". However, this is totally irrelevant, seeing as oranges and pizzas typically don't have one foot or one meter radii. And as a side note, it's not uncommon to see either of those cut into 5 pieces and pizzas are often cut into ten slices as well.

Finally, Con argues that having two units of measurements shows people that things can be conceived of in many different ways. However, this depends upon the assumption that having the US adapt the metric system as its official system of measurement would kill the Imperial System. There's no reason to assume that would be true. In fact, both Canada and Britain often use Imperial Units, despite having the metric system as their official system of measurement. However, even if we assume this would mark the death of the Imperial System the argument still is not substantial enough as Con does not provide any reason as to why seeing "distance, weight, and volume" from multiple perspectives is useful.

So, why should the United States adapt the metric system? I will focus on three main reasons; it is the international standard, it's an easier system to use, and it's used in science and medicine.

The metric system is used as the official system of measurement in every country except: the US, Burma, and Liberia. [1] Being the only major country not using it, emphasizing the Imperial System over the Metric System brings about many problems for both America and the rest of the world. These problems will only continue to be highlighted as the world becomes more integrated. One example of how this could provide a problem is via tourism, both inward and outward. Many Americans travel to other countries and many people around the world visit the US and failure to emphasize the metric system can lead to stark confusion when reading local temperatures (Fahrenheit vs. Celsius), speed limits (mph vs. km/h), and media. Also, anytime an American is consuming any international media whether it be watching the Olympics, playing a foreign game, watching a foreign TV show, reading a foreign newspaper, etc. the measurements will be in the metric system, which once again will bring confusion to those not familiar with the metric system. Seeing as the world is becoming more and more integrated it makes less sense to not have an international standard, or else people will continue to be confused. However, failure to follow the international standard can also provide larger problems. For one, when conducting business internationally, the metric system will likely be emphasized as it is the world's system of measurement, which will once again provide problems for Americans. For example, businesses will be ridden with extra costs with ensuring data is given in the Imperial System, such as car companies having to make an American specific model with a speedometer in miles per hour. Finally, the need to make frequent conversions can also lead to confusion. A famous example of this was when NASA lost a probe because they had assumed a reading in Newton-Seconds was done in Foot-Seconds. [2] Overall, there is no benefit in not following the international system of measurement, but various problems.

Another reason the US should switch to the metric system is that it is a much easier system to use. The most commonly explained version is that it is easier to convert between units. For example, when measuring distance, conversions in Imperial are:
-12 Inches in a Foot
-3 Feet in a Yard
-36 Inches in a Yard
-5,280 Feet in a Mile
Whereas in Metric, some are:
-1000 Millimeters in a Meter
-10 Millimeters in a Centimeter
-100 Centimeters in a Meter
-1000 Meters in a Kilometer

All metric conversions are base 10. They make use of prefixes which are the same for all units such as the "kilo" (1000), the "milli" (1/1000), and the centi (1/100). By using multiples of 10, it is very simple to convert, all one has to do is change the position of the decimal place. Whereas converting between imperial units requires the use of fractions (such as 1/12) and multiples (such as 5280) which most people cannot do in their head.

Another reason the metric system is easier is because it typically has one base unit for each thing being measured or they derived it from another metric unit. For example distance is measured in the meter, mass is measured in the gram, and volume measured in liters (which were derived from cubic centimeters). Yet the US units have several different measurements for the same thing such as volume: gallons, quarts, pints, etc. and often splits them up between dry and liquid measurements. Thus, someone in the kitchen would only need to measure in a liter derived unit (likely the milliliter) and a mass derived unit (likely the gram) as opposed to several generic measurements.

Finally, being the international system for science and medicine it would make sense for Americans to prioritize it. Scientific journals will publish their findings in the metric system, American researchers themselves use metric (such as NASA), doctors will use it which can make explaining things to patients easier, etc. With no benefit to the Imperial System, but a chance to improve scientific literacy, it only makes sense to adapt the metric system.



Show me how to easily do fractions in metric And I will show you a happy carpenter. It is easier to do fractions with the Imperial/British/Standard system than it is with the Metric system.

The Imperial Standard is usually done by binary, even the 12 inch ruler; every inch is broken down into 1, 2 (1/2), 4 (1/4), 8 (1/8), and 16 (1/16) - some might even go so far as 32 (1/32). These are indicated by tic marks on rulers and measuring tapes, thereby simplifying or nullifying any math work needed. Also this makes for easier repeated measurements. What is 1/2 of 12? 6. What is 1/4 of 12? 3. What is 1/3 of 12? 4. What is 1/6 of 12? 2.

8 ounces is 1 cup. 2 cups (or 16 ounces) equal a pint. 2 pints (32 ounces) equals a quart. 4 quarts (128 ounces - note 2 quarts is 64 ounces) equals a gallon. Very simple binary, and also very easy to break down the measurements.

Now looking at Metric. Base 10. Yes it is easy to go from meter to kilometer, gram to kilogram, etc. But really, outside of math class not many people will be doing this.

What is 1/2 of 10? 5. What is 1/4 of 10? 2.5. What is 1/3 of 10? 3.333333333333333... Find me 3.33333333333(never ending 3's here btw) on a ruler. Impossible! So you would then have to round down to just 3.3 and your measurement is already off. What is 1/6 of 10? 1.6666666666666 (again and impossible measurement on a ruler), rounding to 1.67 throws your measurement off.

Yes, Metric in a base 10 makes for going from smaller units to larger units rather simple. But when you start trying to use Metric in everyday applications for measuring you are going to fall short every time.
Debate Round No. 2
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Debate Round No. 3
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by ajisthetruth 2 years ago
stop stalking my debates fu(king creep
Posted by CosmoJarvis 2 years ago
Great job plagiarizing articles, Aj. You lack the skill to do anything else like make your own argument :)
Posted by RoyalFlush 2 years ago
@tejretics No. I had an account a few years back, but I don't think I ever actually had a debate on it.
Posted by tejretics 2 years ago

Are you the same user as RoyalFlush100 (
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