If students are not trained to ask basic questions about the images which confront them, if they are not asked to examine the knowledge and assumptions which they already possess, they are being denied the opportunity to develop the most simple and essential critical tools.
Barry Duncan was Canada's influential thinker and media literacy educator who was the co-founder of the Association for Media Literacy in 1978. He believed that children should be trained early and often to understand media - especially the ads aimed at them - and how to deconstruct them. Under his leadership, he developed groundbreaking ideas and curricula and helped advocate for media literacy in Canadian schools. He was a deep influence on hundreds of teachers as they refined their own media teaching expertise. He authored several textbooks (notably, Mass Media and Popular Culture), and received several awards and international accolades for his unrelenting promotion of media literacy. In his lifetime, he taught for many years at Toronto’s School for Experiential Education (S.E.E.), as well as teaching the Media Studies Additional Qualifications courses for both the University of Toronto and York University. As a result of Barry’s career and tireless volunteer work with The Association for Media Literacy, Ontario is the beneficiary of high-quality, world-leading media education. He was, quite simply, to K-12 Media Education what McLuhan was to the post-secondary discipline. He died in 2012.
Duncan loved popular culture and understood why it mattered and had to be taken seriously in schools. He was also funny, with a modest and self-deprecating demeanor. For example, media literacy is a wholly interdisciplinary form, and Duncan made sure it stayed that way. He insisted on linking it to economics, class, language, visual arts, psychology and even sexuality. You couldn't slot it into a traditional department and he loved that. Fearlessly, he fought for even the most challenging material. In the 80s, he collaborated on a series of initiatives to bring the issue of media and sexuality into the curriculum.