Published in the August 27, 2018 edition.

WAKEFIELD — Some people want to try to make our community a better place to live, and think they have a way to achieve it.

Saying they are concerned with people getting increasingly worked up over politics and the way we often trash each other during public debate, a group of Wakefield and Melrose residents have formed “Civitas.”

In a letter we received last week and are running in the Forum section today, Wakefield’s William Chetwynd, David Watts Jr. and Marc Luca, together with Melrose School Committeeman Ed O’Connell, write that they “represent a small but growing non-partisan group of Melrose and Wakefield residents who are concerned about declining civility, troublesome public discourse, and increasing disdain for our public institutions. With the foregoing in mind, it is our initial aim to bring attention to — and to encourage support for — civic education in our schools, and to thereupon and thereafter extend such civic learning and engagement throughout our wider communities. To accomplish this, we need your perspective and input.

“At present, our aim is to get our leading civic organizations and committees, along with community members-at-large, to share ideas on what efforts may be undertaken within our schools and communities to support civic education, to facilitate and increase civic engagement, and to promote greater understanding and civility in our public discourse. To accomplish this, we will be organizing a series of public forums — with, hopefully, at least one member of your committee/group/organization in attendance — to exchange thoughts and perspectives on the issues and concerns outlined above and, importantly, to discuss and plan what steps we might together take to begin to address same.

“Our first gathering will take place on Saturday, September 22, beginning at 10 a.m. at The Savings Bank Theatre at Wakefield Memorial High School, 60 Farm St., Wakefield. Attendees are encouraged to arrive early to ensure a timely program, which we expect to conclude by noon that day. While this first meeting will be held at a Wakefield venue, we expect future such gatherings to take place in locations in both Wakefield and Melrose, in keeping with our joint-community approach to the issues before us.

“We encourage you to attend or send a representative to the forum, so that we may hear your thoughts and perspectives on the state of civic education, civic engagement, public discourse, and civility, both in our schools and throughout our communities,” the letter concludes.

Lawmakers filed a bill last month as the state legislative session was winding down that calls for civics education becoming more prominent in schools across Massachusetts. The bill stated, in part, that in all public schools, the “history of the United States of America and social science, including civics, shall be taught as required subjects to promote civic service and a greater knowledge thereof and prepare students, morally and intellectually, for the duties of citizenship.”

The bill also mandated that public middle and high schools in the state provide at least one student-led civics project for each student. The civics projects may be taken on by individual students or students working in small groups or classwide, and should promote a student’s ability to reason and make logical arguments and support claims using valid evidence and demonstrate an understanding of the connections between federal, state and local policies, including issues that may impact the student’s community.

Gov. Charlie Baker returned the bill to the Legislature on August 3, with an amendment that aims to protect the rights of students with diverse views. Lawmakers can either agree with and adopt Baker’s amendment or pass their own version of the bill. Because formal legislative sessions are over, any action must be done with consensus, because opposition from a single lawmaker can block a bill from passing in informal sessions.

Once a bill is sent back to the governor, he has 10 days to review it.