Front Page Magazine explains:
Supporters of whole language, by contrast, believe that the acquisition of knowledge is a subjective process. Influenced by John Dewey and his philosophy of Progressive education, they believe that the child must be encouraged to follow his feelings irrespective of the facts, and to have his arbitrary opinions regarded as valid. On this premise, the child is told to treat the whole word as a primary, and to draw his conclusions without the necessity of learning the underlying facts. He is taught this--in spite of the overwhelming evidence, in theory and in practice, that phonics instruction works and whole language does not.
Don't be confused by the facts. Forget what works. Results are irrelevant. The experts know that [balanced literacy/integrated math/insert progressive educational fad of your choice here] is "better." Just ask the kids and their parents in Rockford, Illinois.