No Child...The Play
August 19th, 2006

In this excerpt from the play “No Child…”, a one-woman show written and performed by Nilaja Sun, and currently showing at the Barrow Street Theater, the main character — an actress invited into a high school in the Bronx to put on a play with the students — has told the principal of the school that she is quitting:

“I came to teaching to touch lives and educate and be this enchanting artist in the classroom and make a difference and I have done nothing but lose 10 pounds in a month and develop a disgusting smoking habit. These kids need something much greater than anything I can give them — they need a miracle…

“Sometimes I dream of going to Connecticut and teaching the rich white kids there. All I’d have to battle against is soccer moms, bulimia, and everyone asking me how I wash my hair. But I chose to teach in my city, this city that raised me…and I’m tired, and I’m not even considered a ‘real’ teacher. I can’t even imagine how I would survive as a real teacher.But they do survive…on what God knows.

“The worst thing, the worst thing is that all the kids in there are me. Brown eyes, brown skin, stuck. I can’t even help my own people. Revolutionary, huh?

“Mrs. Kennedy, it seems to me that this whole school system, not just here but the whole system is falling apart under us and there are these accountability laaws that have nothing to do with solutions and if we expect to stay some sort of grand nation fo rthe next 50 years well we got another thing coming. We’re not teaching these kids how to be leaders. We’re just getting them ready for jail: Take off your belt, take off your shoes, go back, go back, go back. We’re totally abandoning these kids and we have been for 30 years and then we get annoyed when they’re running around in the subway calling eadch other bitches and niggas, we get annoyed when their math scores don’t pari up to a five-year-olds in China, we get annoyed when they don’t graduate on time. It’s because we’ve abandoned them….”

In the next scene, her students convince her to stay.

By on August 19, 2006, 1:11 pm
In category: Arts,Education,Gotham City | 4 Comments »

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4 Responses to “No Child...The Play”

  1. H. Tuttle Says:
    August 21st, 2006 at 12:04 pm

    The premise of this play is “we abandoned these kids”? No, their ersatz parents abandoned them by not holding them to high expectations. The I’m ok, you’re ok, do-gooders abandoned them by telling them it’s the color of your skin and a lack of affirmative action that’s holding them back, rather than their foul mouths and the inner city view that hitting books to study is “acting white.”
    I’m sorry, but the pity party’s over. Bill Cosby, Juan Williams and John McWorther are all essentially saying “heal thyself”.

  2. A. Plattsmier Says:
    October 3rd, 2006 at 10:34 am

    It’s McWhorter, and I agree that the racism that has framed the neglect of inner city schoolchildren for decades is also inherent in many of the policies that these children need props and pick-me-ups and self-esteem boosts rather than hard, “white” academics. However, the playwright is not just addressing a school system that abandons and marginalizes its children but also its teachers, many of whom enter the profession with a sense of civic duty and justice, even love, to serve these childen who do need active engaged adults guiding and believing in their abilities. The system degrades and disrespects these individuals, makes them feel useless and makes them quit. That’s the tragedy here, just as much as the tragedy of the lost children, who do not engage in school, who fail or are failed by the system.

  3. Sophie Fitzgerald Says:
    January 6th, 2007 at 2:43 pm

    I really enjoyed this play. I’m writing a paper arguing against the No Child Left Behind act. I thought Ms Sun’s portrayal of the students was completely realistic. I know kids who act exactly like that. I was thrilled when my dad took me to see the play over break. At first I wasnt sure if a one person play would be any good, but No Child is definitely within my top three favorite Broadway plays, and its not even on Broadway.

  4. Christine Rizkallah Says:
    February 17th, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    I suffer every day. I have not found a way to break through the system, and I’m very very tired. Living in this antithesis of education in the world of “education” , the dissonance is wearing me down, a loving, caring teacher. I came from the poor/working people, that is where I now try to teach. Is there any possibility of you performing here in Warren, Ohio – a city devastated by the steel industry? Christine
    Rizkallah

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