This is the script of this morning’s Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

When I visit schools – usually primary schools – I always get asked what is the best thing about being a bishop. I usually say: it’s this! Visiting schools. And I mean it. I genuinely think that teachers do one of the most important jobs in any society and we should value them accordingly.

The main thing about teaching is that, obviously, it is really about learning. We give our children into the hands of other adults for hours every day and expect them to be nurtured – body, mind and spirit. Because teaching is not about force-feeding information into soon-to-be economically-active receptacles, but, rather, about curating character, shaping a world view, forming a mind, opening up the world, stimulating curiosity. And this can only happen if children learn to learn.

At a time of uncertainty on just about every front, I think it is wise to stop and think about what education is and what it is for. Questions about teachers’ pay and conditions are not to be confused with the deeper questions of what they are actually doing and what the rest of us expect of them. As I hinted earlier, a society that sees the economy as an end (rather than a means to an end – human flourishing) will never value the intangible work of shaping personality, character and community.

I come from a tradition that sees children as more than potential workers. Jesus warned against offering a stone to a child who asks for bread. Three thousand years ago the Hebrews placed priority on teaching your children from a very early age – but as part of a community that shared a view of love and justice and mercy that was rooted in a memory of humility.

It’s easy to say, isn’t it? But, any child who listens to the news can be forgiven for being fearful of a secure future. A Czech philosopher, Jan Patočka, came up with a striking description of this fragility when he wrote of “the solidarity of the shaken”. Teachers are also part of this solidarity, and bring to their task all the same uncertainties everyone else feels. But, the children we entrust to them can only find security if the wider society sees them as vital human beings and not just potential commodities – shapers of human futures rather than cogs in a merely economic wheel.

And that’s why I am gripped by the value placed on children in the scriptures I read. It’s also why I think teachers do important work on behalf of the rest of us.