Barry Duncan – Our Founder and Mentor

 In About, Blog

Barry Duncan was our founder, our mentor, and our great friend. If not for Barry, AML would not exist. 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, and a wonderful man who will be greatly missed.

Click here to hear a 1990 interview with Barry on how he got AML off the ground.

On June 6 of 2012, The Association for Media Literacy lost Barry. Many media educators benefited from Barry’s support and guidance.  Some contributed the following comments:

Through all the years we have been so lucky to know you and to count ourselves among your friends, you have been there for us with your vast depth of knowledge, your profound pedagogy in educating young people , along with some of the most fascinating innovative teaching ideas…. and ALWAYS your wonderful , whole-hearted and unconditional support!
Marieli Rowe National Telemedia Council Madison, Wisconsin

Students across Ontario and around the world have you to thank for inspiring them to think critically about everything from Justin Bieber to history books. I would like to think that current student engagement and mobilization around the world is somehow connected to the enlightenment that critical media literacy that has made its way into the curriculum in various forms. You have inspired us all and I am so fortunate to have worked with you – Kristine Collins National Film Board

Little did I know that meeting you would be the beginning of a fond friendship and a profound shift in my own career. You’ve truly contributed to an international dialogue about media and why it’s so important that we address it seriously at school.  I have learned so much from you, Barry. –Kari Dehli Ontario Institute for Education University of Toronto

Barry, I hope you know how extraordinary you are. Not only are you a wonderful person, but you have always been a generous mentor and friend to me and towards many of us here at MNet.
Jane Tallim Co-Executive Director, Media Smarts Canada

Showing 3 comments
  • Caroline deHedervary

    Barry was my uncle. During the mid-60s he and Aunt Lin took my best friend and me, just young kids, to Yorkville coffee houses, silent film screenings, sound poetry performances, and a long Winnebago trip through Quebec. It was a childhood education that we never forgot, and from there we each explored and blossomed in many directions. Later, when her parents made her go to the “straight” high school and I wanted to go to the experimental “hippie” high school, he fought for me to go. It changed my life. It took me decades to appreciate the impact he had on the direction of my life and the person I became. He was interested in things, curious about people, loved the outdoors, dedicated, and patient. I was so lucky. ❤️

    • Carol Arcus

      Hello Caroline,
      I apologize for just seeing your comment now. For some reason, comments are not highlighted.
      We miss Barry so much, he was a huge influence on the course of media literacy education in Canada, indeed in the world. His energy and wry sense of humour was infectious.
      Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful story. How lucky you were!
      Carol Arcus
      Director AML

      • Steve Duncan

        Carol. I too am Barry’s nephew. His brother’s son. I would really really like to connect and chat about Aunt Lin. Please reach out to me at

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