Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns may include satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell which is which.

The “education” lobby works tirelessly … to create more jobs for its constituents.

Currently that lobby, embodied in the teachers’ unions, is making common cause with rich socialists like actor-producer Rob Reiner in a drive to establish “universal pre-school” in the state of California.

The state, through a tobacco tax-funded propaganda mill known as First Five California, is happily on board, buying TV advertising that trumpets the benefits of getting kids out of homes and into institutions sooner than the law currently requires.

Of course, this is all for the benefit of the children. The First Five ads, some of which feature a rich, successful white executive, declare that kids learn quicker, are better adjusted socially and less likely to become drug addicts and/or criminals if they get into institutional settings by age four.

Naturally, the propagandists also inject the concept of social fairness. The argument is that poor and minority kids have fewer books in their homes than well-to-do and white families, so they start kindergarten at a cognitive disadvantage that only gets worse as the years pass.

Clearly, the state can do a better job of raising kids than their disadvantaged parents.

The pre-school forces are planting stories in the press as well. We found one in a Bay Area newspaper that said “few critics are making arguments against the value of public preschool these days …” To which we can only say: Wow!

The same article quotes Reiner adviser Ben Austin as saying, “One way or another, by the end of the 2006 calendar year we will have universal preschool in California. There’s zero chance of that not happening. We’re going to make it happen.”

Oh. The universal preschool would be voluntary. We’re betting that funding eventually would be based on attendance, and that the next lobbying effort would be to make preschool mandatory. Otherwise, the state wouldn’t be able to pay all those new preschool teachers and education union members. If this movement hasn’t hit your state yet, watch for it. It’s coming.

This one has been sitting on the desk for months: The Presbyterian Church USA voted to divest itself of companies that derive $1 million or more from investments in Israel or have invested $1 million or more in the Jewish state. The church, siding with the Palestinians, cited the success of divestment campaigns in overcoming apartheid in South Africa. Next in line, apparently: The Episcopal Church.

However, apart from the public attention such divestment gains, nobody has been able to explain how such campaigns exert any economic pressure on the state that is targeted.

To divest, you have to sell your stock, which means somebody has to buy it. And if you just dump it, you depress the price and your own interests suffer. When California divested from South Africa in the anti-apartheid fight, it very carefully metered its stock sales so as not do drive down the price.

Net economic impact: Zero.

Participially challenged: Alas! The Associated Press, which used to pride itself on its high editing standards, is regularly letting through “sprung” as the past tense of “spring,” “rung” as the past tense of “ring” and “snuck” as the past tense of “sneak.” Get thee to your own Stylebook! …

There have been stories lately in Golden State newspapers about citizens protesting the high pay of educational administrators, from universities down to the K-12 schools. The answer from the establishment is consistent: We have to provide fat compensation packages to get the best educators. This must be why our children are doing so well in the public schools …

Finally comes word that my alma mater, the University of California, Berkeley, has hired Walter A. Robinson, a University of Florida, Gainesville, administrator to be its director of admissions. This disturbs me only because a near relation who had two of his offspring graduate from UFG, posed the following riddle: What do you get when you drive slowly through Gainesville? A bachelor of arts degree.

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