Debates over which subject areas should be made mandatory on college curriculums is clearly a decisive issue, in so far as with this decision the society demonstrates, firstly, what are its ethical commitments in the sense that it praises a particular educational value, and, secondly, what kind of society it wishes to create in the future. In this regard, making the study of a foreign language necessary throughout one’s college career clearly reflects these two points, showing an openness to other cultures that is both ethical, in the respect to other cultures, and indicative of an open society itself, in that knowledge of foreign cultures is required.
This requirement is especially pertinent in the American context, because of the hegemonic political and economic power America possesses in the world. By showing a commitment to studying a language that is not English, the U.S. demonstrates that it does not merely wish to unilaterally dominate the world, but wants to create a multi-polar and truly democratic world.
Furthermore, the United States ideologically emphasizes its multi-cultural origins, being a country created by immigrants from all over the world. A commitment to such multi-culturalism would be clearly shown in the mandatory of foreign language study: instead of forcing all citizens to conform to a “lingua franca” of English, with this decision the value of all cultural traditions are maintained, thus showing a clear commitment to cultural pluralism and thus democracy.
Lastly, there is a practical dimension to studying foreign languages, and this addresses the continuing globalization of the world. Certainly, it can be argued that most of the world speaks English, therefore a foreign language is not needed for such global communication. But this approach is a sign of cultural hegemony and can even be interpreted as a form of imperialism: communication becomes a monologue as opposed to a dialogue. By making studying foreign languages mandatory, this commitment to dialogue is clearly demonstrated.
Accordingly, the reasons for making the studying of a foreign language mandatory are profound. They include economic, ethical, and political reasons. This is because studying a foreign language demonstrates a commitment to cultural multi-polarity, which is at once an ethical commitment against hegemony and monologue, and a political commitment in favor of democracy and the respect of plurality.