Education

“No Child ... " Tells Story of Children, Not NCLB

February 07, 2008 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Nilaja Sun’s one-woman show “No Child ... " is not about the No Child Left Behind Act. But the law’s cameo near the conclusion draws derisive cheers.

At the end of the show, the main character—named for the actress—informs the audience what happens to the show’s main characters. Among them, a boy is killed the next week in gang violence, a girl becomes mayor of New York, and the main character marries Denzel Washington and moves to the nation’s capital to rewrite NCLB. The line drew cheers when I saw the show in Washington on Feb. 2. In an interview this week, the playwright told me that’s a common reaction. She said she believes the loudest cheers come from teachers.

“They have a great hope for something new and different,” said Sun, 33, who wrote the show based on her experiences as a teaching artist in New York City public schools. “They really do want to see a change.”

So what would an actress/playwright who has spent seven years helping some of the nation’s neediest students produce plays do to rewrite NCLB? “I would definitely come back to a place where teachers can teach the subjects,” she said. “Teachers are really pressured to teach to these tests.”

But she acknowledges that she’s no policy wonk. “I don’t know how to turn around a school that’s deteriorating, aside from finding 50 of the best teachers ever and making it a charter school,” she said. “That nitty-gritty stuff is something I’ll leave for the real policymakers in Washington, D.C.”

If the show isn’t about NCLB, then why is it called “No Child ...,” I asked Sun (pictured at right)."It is kind of like the elephant in the room in schools,” she said. “There’s this visible yet invisible pressure in the classroom.”

She wanted a title that referred to that “elephant” because it’s shaping what educators do in their classrooms. But she knew she couldn’t write a show that was “an indictment of the law,” she said. “Who the hell would want to see that for an hour?”

Instead, the show focuses on the emotional roller coaster she faced every time she entered one of New York City’s toughest schools and cajoled seemingly disinterested students into producing a play.

Sun is performing her show at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre in downtown Washington until Feb. 17. She’ll take it to Los Angeles in March and Berkeley, Calif., in May. After that, she will move on to other acting gigs and hopes to see other actors perform it.

A version of this news article first appeared in the NCLB: Act II blog.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP