Boston University President Dr. John Silber intellectually probes that great abstraction, America, to convince us he knows what's wrong and how to fix it. Hubris Silber has in daring measure, as he leaves little doubt he personally has the map for America to find its way out of the wilderness. However, skepticism is warranted. Unrealistically, he thinks that a simple return to traditional values is all that is needed for America to overcome its drug plague, broken families, AIDS, and a failing economy with a burgeoning underclass. Ills book is divided into three sections, beginning with ""First Principles,"" in which he seriously recommends a return to the lessons in 19th-century primers and copybooks. Admirably, these volumes arose from a rural, religious America and Silber blindly seems to think these same values should apply equally to the pluralistic, secular, urban, leisure-oriented post-industrial America of this instant. In section two, ""Lessons in School,"" Silber addresses modern education and unlooses a widespread attack on that which he knows best, the modern American university. Much is wrong here, but Silber's cures seem self-serving for the most part as he lays much of the blame with America's university faculty, whose members Silber sees, all too often, as irresponsible, anchored ill life-time sinecures. Blaming the faculty seems rooted in past battles with his own faculty. Silber recommends eliminating tenure and replacing it with basic 7-year terms of academic employment. Above all, he calls for emphasis on academic responsibility to balance the traditional freedoms. In section three, ""Lessons Out of School,"" Silber strays the farthest from his own strictly academic experience and strives to set us straight on most all of our contemporary problems. The underclass will dissolve eventually, if the state intervenes with national programs for day care and preschool nutrition for both children and unwed mothers. With this solution, he seems to endorse longtime liberal positions but on defense, Silber warns of the illusion of peace with the Soviets under Gorbachev. Overall, the book seems like intellectual three-card monte, with Silber often deftly hiding his own prejudices under a select stream of quotes from the great men of the past who favor Silber's attitude.