Plain Speaking

School: What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger, Units of Measure Edition

Yeah, really.

I’ve written before about the expressed similarities which my late husband observed might have been true when it came to those between British boarding school children and those who signed up for the US military.

“Yes,” he used to observe, when I told him about my childhood difficulties with privacy, bathing, personal space, and having my own character battered down in favor of the group identity.

‘That sounds a lot like the Marine Corps,’ he used to say.

It occurs to me that another similarity might exist WRT the annual (please keep in mind that I was only about eleven years old at the time) exercise concerning my personal possessions.

There was a check list.

An actual check list.

One which my parents (or–when they weren’t in country–my grandparents, or other responsible adults) were accountable for. They were required to enumerate every item I should bring to school with me, and which I was required to take home with me.  And my family was required to record them, even down to each (see what I did there) unit of measure.  So everything equaled out.

I’ll never forget:

Blue silk dress: One: Each.

Handkerchiefs: Two:  Dozen

Pajamas: Three: Pair

Afternoon blouses: Three: Each

Socks: Six: Pair

Every item recorded.  The number required.  And the collective noun describing how they were enumerated–Each.  Dozen.  Pair.  And so on.

I don’t think–after I left boarding school for the somewhat more free US Junior High School environment– that I thought much about such things until about 1991, when I found myself in charge of a project to improve my hospital employer’s inventory management system.

And that’s when I discovered that–no matter the circuitous routes by which I came to the understanding–units of measure matter.

As, to this day, I think they do.

And so, twenty, thirty, fifty, years on, once more I am grateful for the experiences of my increasingly long life.

The rest of you?  Have at it.  And if you won’t, that will, in a way, speak for itself.

2 thoughts on “School: What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger, Units of Measure Edition”

  1. It occurs to me that “units of measure” are helpful tools in teaching mathematics to children, and are inextricably linked to the “times tables.” I wonder, today, how many young people know that “twelve” makes a dozen, or that “two” is a pair, or that “quarts” are four-to-the-gallon.

    How easy it was, when asked–“how many is six dozen”–to reply “72,” because 12×6 is 72. Or when queried, “I have nine pairs of socks. How many socks do I have?” to respond: “Eighteen.” Or, “I have five gallons of beer. How many quarts of beer do I have?” to come back with “twenty.”

    I don’t know if that sort of thing is taught anymore. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak wants to include “Maths Classes” through the age of eighteen in British public schools. Strikes me as closing the door after the horse has bolted. If sixteen year old children can’t add, subtract, multiply and divide because the first ten years of their education was spent focusing on how “racist” it is to expect accurate answers to mathematics questions, it’s hard to see how two years more of the same will vouchsafe any improvement at all.

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