Education Minister Michael Gove has called for longer school hours and shorter school holidays. This, he believes, will help working parents; and reverse the disadvantage our children are currently at in the global economic competition with Asian children.
This makes sense, if working parents are what parents are, primarily: homo operarius; and if this is what children are born to become, whether they themselves have children of their own or not. If ‘Arbeit macht frei.’
Jesus asked the question, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but forfeit his soul?”
Jesus asked a lot of questions. He asked more questions than he gave answers. He undermined the assumptions of the self-assured, and opened up space for another way of experiencing the world to be discovered.
What might it mean, to forfeit one’s soul? Might it mean to lose oneself, to surrender the unique gift God has given to you, in you, which he has never given before and will never give again? To be so subsumed in the pursuit of gain external to oneself – money, power, fame – that one is lost to oneself...and, therefore, to the possibility of relationship with another, whether our Creator or our neighbour? To merely exist, when one might have lived?
In his approach – both inquisitive and provocative – Jesus drew on an earlier teacher, identified as the Teacher, whose key discovery and lesson was that anything pursued to excess – study, play, work, advancement in the world, riches – loses its true value as a gift from God to be enjoyed in its time. We are not masters of our own destiny, but in attempting to be so we will find ourselves dissatisfied with the present and disappointed with the future. You can read this view of holistic education for life in the book known as Ecclesiastes in the Christian Old Testament, or Qohelet in the Hebrew Bible.