The Ridiculous Cartoons The Government Made (To Convert Kids To Metric)
By the late ’70s, the metric system was pretty firmly established internationally, with a lot of European countries having used it for centuries (England was a late converter, and they never quite got around to shifting fully). Finally, it was time for the US to take the plunge.
The Metric Board formed in 1975 to start America’s transition. The project would be huge, with industries, unions, and businesses all having to take steps to convert. And then, of course, came the question: Isn’t anyone thinking of the children?
You might imagine that children would find the conversion easiest, since they’d only spent a few years dealing with traditional American units, and since they already had a dedicated place set up where they learn new things (“school”). But the government kept a special spot in their minds for children, which is why they produced a series of educational cartoons, to air Saturday mornings during the usual animated lineup in 1978 and 1979. These starred a series of superheroes, named The Metric Marvels.
Watch this short about “Super Celsius,” which does offer some useful info about what Celsius temperatures mean, but also spends a surprising length of time just repeating the basic concept of what temperature is, since there’s no telling what the kid viewer already knows:
Here, you can watch the adventures of Meter Man, who races against the Miler. “But isn’t a kilometer the metric counterpart to the mile,” you might ask, but this is all answered in cartoon, fear not. And if you take nothing else from the song, just remember this line: A meter’s just a little longer than yard/That’s not very hard.
The kids who watched these cartoons learned more about the metric system than any American children before or since. But the efforts of Meter Man and Super Celsius (as well as Liter Leader and Wonder Gram) were ultimately for naught. The ’80s rolled around, the government dropped the push to go metric, and Americans went back to using cubits and handbreadths like the good Lord intended.
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