"One of the worst things you can do with a very young child is give them the impression that they can't do something,"I'd have thought that not teaching them to read is worse that giving them the impression that they can't read.
As far as I can see there are two possibilities as to why he says this both of which are pretty bad. The first option is that he is acting like a typical union baron who puts the interests of his members ahead of the children that they are responsible for and is cynically invoking the welfare of the children to protect his colleagues from scrutiny.
The other possibility is that he genuinely believes in the cult of self esteem. This basically means that it doesn't matter if school pupils are illiterate and innumerate as long as they feel good about it. As Squander 2 points out this results in the education system churning out legions of ignoramuses who are nevertheless utterly convinced that they are always right.
It isn't even as though there is reams of evidence showing that making children believe that they are good at something makes them so. If anything convincing them that they already understand a subject is likely to breed complacency as a quote I first cited back in May 2006 demonstrates:
an international study of 13 year olds found that Koreans ranked first in mathematics and Americans last. When asked if they thought that they were "good at mathematics," only 32% of Korean youngsters said "yes"- compared to 68% of American 13 year olds.As I have said before self esteem is not a good thing unless it is deserved.