One of the things Ace of Spades links to has something for me to quibble over, though. It seems to suggest that Mississippi had nothing but whole-word recognition reading in its public schools until the '90s. T'aint so. I went to Mississippi public schools in the 1970s and '80s, and I was taught to read with phonics. My second-grade teacher--a really good teacher at an overall really lousy school--was especially keen on phonics. She was one of those tough-but-fair types, who expected good work out of her students, and is the only teacher at that school (God be praised, I moved to a better--that is, a merely mediocre school--in tenth grade) I remember fondly. Of course, it could be that she wasn't supposed to be using phonics. Maybe she was one of those Mississippi black kids educated out of the older, better phonics-based textbooks (something mentioned in the article) and was ornery enough to insist on good methods.
To be fair, saying phonics is vastly superior doesn't mean kids can't learn anything with a sight-reading approach. I could read some when I started school and, as I have no memory of anyone teaching me, I must have absorbed much of it just by having my mother read books to me and hearing the names of street signs or products on television. I also watched a bit of Sesame Street, starting when I was nearing first-grade age. (