Despite the emphasis placed on STEM education, I believe the field of communications is just as important, if not more important.

For instance, you can do an experiment with great success, but when it comes time to write a report about the results (scientists are always writing reports), if you can’t communicate effectively, the experiment was in vain.

The tendency to communicate isn’t what it used to be, likely in part because there are certain topics  we steer clear of. Therefore, no one learns or grows or even is exposed to information deemed controversial or polarizing.

That’s why I became so interested when I heard about a saloon in White Oaks, N.M., called the No Scum Allowed Saloon.

Saloon owner Karen Haughness, one of nine residents in White Oaks, said often the regulars  outnumber the residents in the ghost town, but no matter how crowded the bar gets, there is one main rule: Maintain civil discourse.

“We are different. We come from different places. We are different politically. We have extreme liberals and extreme conservatives,” said Haughness, who also works as a school psychologist and sells antiques on the side. “But we can state opinions without getting into arguments. We have dialogue.”

The town was founded after gold was discovered in the region in 1879. Outlaw Billy the Kid is said to have visited White Oaks often, looking for a good time.

People moved out as gold mining evaporated, with the last mine closing in 1930. Today, the No Scum Allowed Saloon’s regulars make up to about three times the town’s single-digit population.

Who would have thought a bar in a tiny ghost town would harbor a place where everyone on the political spectrum could feel comfortable expressing their opinion about whatever the topic happened to be? Our elected officials might need a trip to White Oaks.

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lward@dailyindependent.com