Through Education the American Dream Can Flourish

03/12/2015 11:26 am ET | Updated May 12, 2015

While we might not like it, politics is sometimes an unfair business. Not only can it be unfair, but it can be downright disgraceful. That's not to say that all of our politicians are unfair or disgraceful; it's just the way the game is played.

When we were in middle school or high school, we were taught that there are three distinct and clear branches of government: the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judiciary (read that: the President, Congress and the Supreme Court). This is a very neat and tidy way of explaining our federal government. It often translates to state government as well, like New York with a governor, a legislature (Assembly and Senate) and a high court (Court of Appeals). The theory is that each branch has its clear responsibility, as well as checks and balances over the others, which may work on paper, however, we must account for politics. Politics in today's environment can be especially brutal.

As you may recall we were taught that the Legislative Branch "makes the laws," the Executive Branch "enforces the laws," and the Judicial Branch "reviews laws to ensure fairness, equity and congruency with the constitution." However, let's examine today's politics. Several presidents, including George W. Bush and Barack Obama, have been accused of "over reaching" presidential authority by enacting executive orders which carry the same weight of law, until such time as another "executive" may rescind the order.

The legislative branch has been accused of reaching into executive purview. For example, recently this Senate, at least 47 Senators of it, wrote an open letter to the leadership of Iran that negotiations with the president were meaningless without Senate approval. While true at some level, negotiations with foreign nations have always been the responsibility of the president. Treaties are then ratified by the Senate. Such a letter jeopardizes the president's ability to work with foreign leaders. Treaties cannot be negotiated by 535 people in Congress.

Finally, the court system has been accused of making law through their decisions. The court has been accused of redefining race relations, supporting gay marriage, validating the election of presidents, changing voting regulations and many other social constructs of our time.

Whether or not you agree with any of these positions is not what's most important. What is important, from the perspective of this op-ed, is that we examine our governments and their positions. In community colleges, like Fulton-Montgomery Community College, and other institutions of higher education, we work hard to teach students to examine the issues discussed and evidence brought forward -- critical thinking. We are trying to teach students, in this example, that government is much more complex than what they may have learned in high school. More importantly, the lines between the branches of government might be more blurred from the way they were taught.

My point is this, it seems that the government belongs to the people, not the other way around. Only through education can "We the People" determine if the government is acting in our best interest. The public must be involved in their government. They must vote. They must speak out. They must be heard. Yet, we must do so in an educated and informed manner.

The United States is a successful democracy. However, it relies on our people to keep our democracy strong. Only through education will the American dream flourish. The uneducated will too easily be led astray.