Six contrarian predictions for the 2010s

No one can predict the future, but cultural moods and global trends indicate that these six educational reforms could be headed to a classroom near you in the next decade. The only guarantee? That every one of them will be controversial and bitterly contested.

By Hank Pellissier

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Hello, metric system

What does the United States share with only Burma and Liberia? Thankfully, it's not appalling poverty and short life expectancy, but it's something just as outdated and primitive. Hint: miles, inches, quarts, pounds, Fahrenheit. Good grief, we're still non-metric! As futurist Thomas Frey points out, using antiquated systems slows progress. For instance, the metric system creates a time suck for  schoolchildren because it takes far longer to memorize our excruciating formulas (36 inches per yard, 128 fluid ounces per gallon, 16 ounces per pound, 5,280 feet per mile, etc.) than it does to grasp the sensible base 10 metric system, conceived by a Flemish mathematician and initially adopted by revolutionary France in 1791.

Why do we cling to the troglodyte system inherited from the British colonial era? With the new focus on readying our students for a global economy, it’s only logical that, over the next decade, U.S. schools leave behind this archaic measuring mess and join the civilized world. After that, we might even resolve the whole cursive-versus-printing debate and develop a user-friendly keyboard.

Hank Pellissier is a freelance writer whose fiction and essays have been been widely published and anthologized. A former columnist for Salon and SF Gate, he is a regular contributor to h+ Magazine.

Comments from readers

"When you're in not good state and have no cash to move out from that, you will have to receive the personal loans. Just because that will help you for sure. I get student loan every year and feel myself fine because of it. "
"In the US, I don't see robot teachers as an acceptable method of teaching. First, in transition, students would see it as a joke and not take learning seriously. Not to mention that children today would try to destroy it and cause all sorts of disruptive behavior in class. That's if they show up at all, believing there would be no disciplinary actions. Also, I believe there needs to be human interaction with students for there to be accelerated learning in the classroom. Students feed off of emotions to learn how to behave in life and in public around strangers and teachers. Robots would leave a void in this area and it could never be replaced."
"Where you say 'metric system creates a time suck,' you mean to say 'imperial system.' Otherwise, I totally agree. We should have bitten the bullet in the 1970's and converted back then. At some point we'll lose that privileged status of being the biggest economy in the world, and we won't be able to shun metric any more. "
"Dear Hank Pellissier, I like your article. You might like to have another think about the origins of the metric system as you appear to have left out the contributions of Bemjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington. See and Also let me put some numbers to your thoughts, see Cheers, Pat Naughtin Geelong, Australia"
"The US ranks 19th out of 24 (industrialized countries) in Education. It seems that the NCLB Act paid billions to corporations who developed the 'standardized tests'. Perhaps it would have been better to spend billions on schools, esp. the poorest of schools. Whatever fantastic thing is developed, it rarely reaches into the poorest schools in America."