Literacy is a critical element in the historical relationship between curriculum and the State. Recently, however, this has itself become complexified and problematical, given the increasing significance of new technologies and what has been called the communications revolution (Hinkson, 1991). Three key issues inform this paper: first, the nature of the relationship among curriculum, literacy and the State; second, the changing nature of each of these, something which is arguably especially evident in the period in question here; and third, the specific implications of all this for English teaching, long established as a central element in modern schooling. These matters will be explored via an account of English curriculum change, literacy debates and educational politics in Western Australia in the period 1983-1989. Among much else in Australian education in the turbulent period of the 1980s, English teaching and literacy pedagogy went through a process of crisis and change, involving both public debate and extensive restructuring. This paper addresses such issues and debates in the context of national and international shifts and movements in educational policy and curriculum politics. My proposal is that these concerns, far from being simply of archival interest, may well register a significant transition in Australian education and society.