• Jaime Richards

How Maroon Five’s “Sugar” Video Teaches Students Why They Are In School

Maybe I’m losing it…

No! I don’t believe that. This is such a good lesson. It’s a lesson kids need to learn, whether they know it or not.

It’s a “Why are we in school?” lesson, and what could be more relevant to bored, apathetic students than that?

I write this because when I taught it to the seniors in my economics class at my public-private, “high-achieving,” high-stress high school (possible explanation?) they reacted as if I just had told them to memorize Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution.

My haughtiest students will insist that the lesson is a waste of time because it’s so simplistic. Many of the rest, I speculate, dismissed it because

1. "What does this have to do with anything? It’s not economics.” 2. “Richards is teaching it, and I don’t like Richards.” 3. “I don’t like this song/singer/group.” 4. “Learning this won’t get me me more points and, thus, into a good college.” 5. “Lesson? This is a lesson?”

Still, I stand by it. Perhaps my delivery was poor or mistimed. (I taught as as part of a “change it up” final exam.) Or, perhaps I’ve just lost my touch with what I used to believe was my teaching strength strength – the ability to make a serious lesson fun, interesting and relevant.

Whatever, here’s the lesson. I’d love to know what you think.

My daughters, Kyrra and Kylene, shared with me the story of Maroon Five’s music video, “Sugar.”

Front man Adam Levine, asked his friend, movie director David Dobkin to direct the video. Dobkin, who directed the hit film Wedding Crashers, suggested that Maroon Five crash (with the permission of the grooms, who would keep it secret) a series of Los Angeles weddings and, unannounced, perform at the reception for free.

Adam Levine

Despite the potential for disaster (Levine wondered if this might ruin the couple’s moment), they went for it. The spectacular result was what you see in the video: unquestionable surprise and unbounded joy.

So, what does this have to do with why students should be in school?


First, as Maroon Five did, develop a skill (in economic terms, human capital) that will allow you to earn an income. Maroon Five’s is music. What’s yours?

Second, use that skill to make other people’s lives better. You’re in school to learn how you can best contribute to the world.

Third, have a great time doing both of the above. At the end of the video, Levine leaves no doubt that he gained as much from the experience as the delightfully shocked wedding guests. If you’re doing what you like, are good at and you’re using your skills to help others, how can you not be living meaningfully and joyfully?