Theater Review: No Child

In 2001 President George W. Bush proposed the No Child Left behind Act which forced schools to take action with the below average test scores. Due to this act schools are required to have their students take tests and have a certain percentage increase in grades every year otherwise there would be consequences from a school being labeled as a needing improvement to the extreme of having it privately run or shut down. The play “No Child” written by Nilaja Sun acts as a direct commentary for the need of the No Child Left behind Act.
In this play the characters and their actions have such a strong correlation to the real problems that students in under privileged societies in America face as well as the need for reform in the education department. (No Child Left Behind) The setting of the play is the school that seems unfit for children to be going to receive an education. The janitor describes the school “The building fallin apart, paint chipping, water damage, a whole in the fourth floor ceiling that aint been fixed since 87, all the bathrooms on the third floor, they all broke.
The school is also described by the janitor as having “one hundred thousand dollars’ worth of security system which includes two metal detecting machines, seven metal detecting wands, five school guards and three NYC police officers. All armed”. (Sun 5) These descriptions of the school itself appear that education is not the primary focus of the leadership in the school district. It seems that the funding that the school is being given is not being utilized to its full potential for the benefit of the student’s education. In public schools across the nation this is the actual setting of how the school can be described.

With the No Child Left Behind act schools are pushed to make education the primary focus in order to give students an equal chance at life afterwards. (No Child Left Behind) As stated earlier the characters have a strong correlation to students and educators in real life. Being a teacher is described as being “underpaid, unappreciated, and underpaid job in this crazy universe. (Sun 6) The tenth grade class in this play is group of disrespectful, hopeless kids that are just pushed around all day and treated as if they are convicts themselves.
It seems that in this story every person who is in a position to make a positive change whether it be the parents or the teachers push it off on someone else to do. The first teacher that the audience encounters is a woman named Ms. Tam who is underpaid and unappreciated as well as blatantly disrespected by her students and has no control over them. It gets to the point that Ms. Tam actually ends up leaving because she cannot handle the students. Prior to the No Child Left Behind act new teachers were only required to have bachelor’s degree, be fully certified and to have a subject matter knowledge generally through tests.
After the act was implemented, the standards for all teachers were required to be highly qualified which is different in every state regardless if they are new or have reached their tenure. The act also makes it so the teacher’s salary could be raised or dropped depending on how the students performed on their tests. By doing this teachers are required to take responsibility for their students which requires them to go above the bare minimum. (No Child Left Behind) The next teacher that the audience sees interaction with between the students is Ms. Sun.
Right off the bat the audience sees that she is someone that not only cares about what she is teaching but about the students that she is teaching. She lays down rules about being in class on time, eating in class and being respectful to everyone. She gets the students to actually care and want to take part of the play that she was hired to be in charge of a play that the students previously scoffed at. By getting the students to take part of the play actually gives them a greater hope for their future that they don’t have to end up hopeless, a characteristic that society has already label them as being.
These are the teachers that the No Child Left behind act is instituting, teachers that have the ability to push their students to have an equal chance that privileged and well educated students have. Ms. Sun is not here to do the bare minimum required; she is here to make a change in students who just need guidance. (No Child Left Behind) The students are probably the most important characters in this play in correlation to the No Child Left Behind act. The audience gets to see the transformation that begins to take place in the students after a teacher who goes above and beyond what her peers are doing with their students.
In the beginning of the play the students proudly characterize themselves as the worst class ever. Mrs. Kennedy later on refutes this claim by saying, “Look, I understand that they consider themselves the worst class in school. News Flash – they’re not even close. (Sun 21) It is this statement that the audience can understand that although this class is pretty horrible there are worse classes which shows that it is the school as a whole that is failing at their job. Towards the end of the play the students have done a complete 180.
Not only are they wanting to take part of the play but they are doing what they need to for class such as showing up on time, not eating in class and not being disruptive. One of the students who were initially the leader of not doing the play actually says that he is looking forward to taking part of it next year. All that it took was a determination of the teacher to push past the expectations of failure of these students and found a way to reach them. At the end of the play instead of every student being a failure as originally thought some go on to Harvard while others make proud livings for themselves.
The play was a strong motivator that provoked emotion and the responsibility to help the cause. The play was more than direct commentary in one’s opinion, and more a piece of propaganda to move the audience to join the fight. The play shows the horrors of reality and a resolution that leaves the children and audience with hope. The bottom line is to show the audience that these children are not hopeless or lost causes and they need people to have hope and believe their fate is not sealed with the circumstances they were born into.

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