Nijila Sun’s No Child
Nijila Sun is a teacher at Martin Luther King, Jr., High School in New York City. She began teaching at the age of
twenty-three, intrigued by the possibilities of teaching and staging Romeo and Juliet. After eight years, she wrote this
play, which she is careful to say is a based on a number of the schools in which she had taught. “No Child” provides
social commentary on the “No Child Left Behind Act” which was endorsed by both President George W. Bush and Senator Teddy
Kennedy, but it is also an affectionate, sometimes humorous, but ultimately grim look at our failing schools and what
happens to the students who attend them.
Write well-developed paragraphs in response to the questions. Please use at supporting detail from the text in your
1. Midway through the performance, the janitor provides an overview of the school’s history and ends his monologue with
the following sentences:
“I don’t know nothing about no No Child, Yes Child, Who Child, What Child. I
do know there’s a hole in the fourth floor ceiling ain’t been fixed since ’87, all the
bathrooms on the third floor, they broke. Now who’s accountable for dat?”
What is the point the janitor is making here, and do you agree? Explain your reasoning.
2. In a review of the play in The New York Theatre Magazine, Jeremy McCarter writes that the “word accountable is one of
the keys to the show.” Is he correct? Explain why or why not.
3. In “No Child,” which is directed by Hal Brooks, Ms. Sun leads a group of students at the fictional Malcolm X High
School through a performance of “Our Country’s Good.” That 1988 play by Timberlake Wertenbaker is about a real-life
lieutenant who led a group of 18th-century Australian convicts in a production of George Farquhar’s 1706 comedy “The
Recruiting Officer.” The concept may seem a bit dizzying — a Restoration comedy within a contemporary drama within a
school play within a one-woman show — but the thematic resonances are clear, as both “Our Country’s Good” and “No Child”
argue for the exalting benefits of theater on troubled individuals and communities.
– Nina Shen Rastogi, The New York Times
Does live theater or literature really have an “exalting benefit” for “troubled individuals and communities” in this play?
What about in your own experience? Explain.
Nijila Sun’s No Child (excerpt) Kirk Douglas Theatre: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vbx5MNj0a-A&feature=youtu.be