The teaching of the Metric system in schools in Ireland commenced in 1970. Children of the sixties who had grown up with pints, pounds and miles were now introduced to litres, kilos and metres. It is quite likely that this changeover resulted in a generation of people who were unclear about both systems. But “Perseverence is King”, according to Josh Billings, so one would expect that, today, the Irish nation is completely decimalised.
Is it unreasonable, after forty years of metrication, to expect people to use metres? One can be a little forgiving towards people over fifty who may have left primary school without having been introduced to the concept. But people below the age of forty five should not be using the imperial system. As a nation we embraced the change from pounds, shilling and pence to Punts, and from Punts to Euro so it’s not a case of us being too stupid to adapt to change. It is because successive Governments couldn’t be arsed to enforce the changeover properly. People are lazy about making changes but when it is forced upon them they adjust easily. These changes should have been enforced vigorously from day one.
Instead, there was a ridiculously long changeover period. More than twenty years lapsed before the Government introduced this statute on foot of a directive from the EEC. By 1993 all measures were to be given in metric. Products were to be priced per kilo, litre or metre. Naturally enough a dual pricing system existed for some time. Labeling of products carried the metric and imperial measures to help lessen confusion. Road signs around the country were changed and distances between towns were given in kilometres but speed limits remained in miles until 2005 (ten years later the EEC/EU had demanded!).
I have embraced metric units for cooking and baking. For driving I use kilometres, for temperature I use Celsius and I know I need to burn joules rather than calories when I’m exercising. I know my litres but I still enjoy a pint of Guinness on a winter’s night in a pub and I use an old fashioned jigger to measure my sundowners. However, my local fishmonger is still pricing product per pound (surely illegal now?) and the Safe Food Network in Ireland is running a fat fighting campaign using the imperial system. I tweeted about this last night, exasperated that the metric system is being ignored. To be fair they responded the next day:
So what has been achieved in forty years? Teachers have been paid, books have been reprinted, maps redrawn, tools and gadgets have been re-calibrated, packaging has been resized and so on. Yet, apparently, Market Research is saying that people don’t understand centimetres? It is a thundering disgrace that the publicly funded SafeFood network is using an antiquated unit of measure in an otherwise worthy campaign.