If You Build It
Modern education, particularly in depressed areas of the country, has sadly become terribly streamlined. Schools often barely have the money for books, how are they going to afford elective subjects like the arts and some sports and home economics?
The problem with this is simple and stark. Not all students will be interested… or even talented… in all of the most traditional courses. School is supposed to open up a wide range of opportunities and interests to the children, exposing them to as many options as possible. In these days of budget cuts and limited curriculums, aren’t the students missing out on many life opportunities which may appeal to them?
This is one of the central questions behind If You Build It, the latest documentary by director Patrick Creadon, who previously looked at American life with Wordplay and I.O.U.S.A.
If You Build It borrowed its title from an iconic line from the movie Field of Dreams, but it is notable that the new doc only uses half of that movie quote. (The original line was “If you build it, they will come.”) In that film, Kevin Costner is convinced to build a baseball diamond in the middle of an old cornfield. While If You Build It also looks at building a gathering place on an empty field of dreams, whether “they come” is almost beyond the point.
(A long, long list of Kickstarter donations in the end credits of the film suggest that the title may in some strange ways refer to the movie itself as well.)
The whole point is in the making of something, not in what happens once it is indeed up, though the opening day does look promising.
The movie looks at Bertie county in North Carolina, one of the poorest regions of the state. Matt Miller and Emily Pilloton are two young teachers and carpenters who tend to go to impoverished areas to teach the skill of building. They’ve barely arrived in town when their funding is cut off – they have to agree to work for free in order to keep their jobs – but the two decide to stay and give some of the local high school kids a crash course which they call Studio H.
What they teach a slightly more high-pressure version the type of thing that in the old days was known as industrial arts or shop class, but has been pretty much budgeted out of modern school districts. In a matter of 28 weeks, they will teach the kids to go from making pipes from manure to making chicken coops to finally building a farmer’s market for the community.