ABSTRACT A perennial question about the necessity of foreign languages is brought into focus again due to efforts in support of bilingual/bicultural education. What is the place of foreign languages in public education? Are we ready for cultural pluralism? Accepting cultural pluralism will imply restructuring of practices and philosophies of curriculum, instruction, and administration. Foreign language teachers are challenged to exert leadership in such fundamental changes in education. In this article potential changes are examined against a background of pluralism in American educational history in comparison to the relative prestige of foreign language learning in the curriculum. Generally maligned during various periods of U.S. educational history, foreign languages suffer today from competition brought about by limited finances, early release programs and a plethora of electives. Language teachers are urged to be leaders in seeking more involvement of foreign languages in the total educational experience of youth. Finally, foreign language is described as essential in terms of human choices, of survival, and human tolerance toward people who differ from one another.