He thinks algebra is bad but thinks all kids should learn something so fundamentally nonuseful as long division? (Yes I know it's useful once you get to polynomial division, but that's algebra ... It's often not even taught in calculus where it becomes useful to integrate rational functions.)

I teach at the university level, and from time to time I teach non-math majors, and I don't think the problem is that algebra is too hard. It is that the amount of effort students put into studying has gone significantly down. See:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/college-inc/post/five-colleges-where-students-study/2012/05/22/gIQAK0gvhU_blog.html

On average, students now spend 15 hours studying per week compared to 24 in 1960. The problem is not algebra, it is facebook, iphone, internet in general, grade inflation, and role models nowdays being those that made a lot of money with no effort compared to astronauts in the 1960s.

I had my wife visit one of my calculus classes once and she sat in the back row. There was about half the class present (normal if you don't require attendance in a large lecture). Half of the remaining half was playing with their iphones and ipads or whatnot (no, not taking notes on them). And that was a calculus class where majority were engineers, students who are generally more interested in math. I know how pre-calculus can run and it can be depressing that no matter how hard you try to make the subject interesting (and approachable) you have at most one or two people in a class who pay attention and do what one would consider "well". Then due to grade inflation, most of the students pass anyway without getting much out of the class.

I had to take all sorts of classes as an undergrad (including political science) and I enjoyed every one of them. I had to work more in some than in others, though of course liberal arts classes were usually easiest to get an A without an effort. It's easy to get an A in art class for example, without having a shred of artistic talent. I found almost all these classes were doable with just going to class, doing homework and no extra studying. Comparing grades of different subjects is total nonsense. Would we improve the situation if we just gave everyone an A in math?

In summary, I don't think that anyone capable of being good in any field taught in a university can't pass an algebra class given a bit of effort. If it is not important to you to put in the effort, then your own field is not very important to you either. Why would it be an advantage to have an unmotivated person like that graduate?