I'm not sure I agree with his reasoning that his high school education prepared him to be aliterate. He is very upfront about the fact that he wasn't exposed much to reading in his home life. I'd say that technically, his low-literacy household made him unable to read the Scarlet Letter. He didn't see his parents reading or interacting with books, he was not exposed to materials that would have assisted his literacy skills. Hence, he didn't know what to do when he was suddenly expected to stretch said skills.
I'm not saying the teachers couldn't have helped there. They could have. But I wouldn't suggest that we expunge algebra from our High Schools or even replace it with every-day financial accounting just because there are too many sucky elementary math curricula and parents are bad at modeling successful mathematical skills.
I have fostered kids who came from houses where there were no books. So I can tell you that there is a HUGE change in how they interact with books after being in a high-literacy culture. It doesn't erase dyslexia or early developmental delays. There is just a fundamental change in how they view the whole act of literacy.
While I rag on my parents sometimes, they did push literacy. They pushed me to explore my interests at the library, I had child's versions of Poe, Ivanhoe, Kipling, etc. from an early age. I loved discovering new words in Shakespeare and used them gleefully when i was 12. I thought romantic literature (like the Scarlet Letter) as a teenager because I thought that the overblown language was "so real." (Hey, most romantic music/literature is just what life is like with raging hormones and puberty! Am I right?)
That's not to say I didn't hate a whole lot of books in English Class. I despised All the King's Men and really wanted Joyce to get over himself. But reading something that you hate and that is nearly inaccessible turned out to be a great life skill for me. In my current job I have to understand and work with lots of horrible communicators. (They use correct grammar and spelling, but they CANNOT communicate. Yeah, thanks James Joyce!) So while I'd agree that it's important that kids have a healthy mix of accessible and enjoyable books, I don't think it's awful to have to read stuff you despise now and then.