I found the "meaning" approach to be a near complete waste. If you only know the "meaning" but not how to use it, then you don't really know anything. It doesn't matter if you know the 'meanings" of 2000 kanji if you don't know how to read. All you are is a monkey.
I think that's going a bit far. Knowing the meanings of 2000 characters is nothing to scoff at. I have yet to see a monkey accomplish the same thing. Yes, it is only half of the goal, but half is a lot when your talking about this much knowledge.
Besides, there are plenty of times when I sit down here at work with the Japanese newspaper and read through entire articles, grasping everything that's said, even if I can't tell you the reading of every character. What saves me from total incomprehension is the fact that I know the meaning of the characters whose reading eludes me.
You say you don't know anything if you don't know the readings...well, I know what those articles said.
The reason Heisig (whose system, I'll admit, isn't for everyone - everyone, after all, has a different learning style) separates meaning from reading is that he wants you to focus on one semantic piece of the puzzle at a time. I mean, think about it - tackling each character requires:
1- becoming familiar with the shape
2- learning the stroke order
3- learning the meaning
4- learning the on-reading(s)
5- learning the kun-reading(s)
6- learning the okurigana, if any
7- learning at least
one sample word or jukugo where it's used
and, if you're ultra-geeky, like me,
8- learning the etymology of the character
That's a lot to absorb at once. Heisig has you narrow it down to the shape, stroke order and meaning, and once you've got those figured out, to attach the on- and kun-readings, the okurigana and a sample word or two. I agree that the second half of his system is far from perfect. The first half, however, is very effective at what it does. Using this system, it is possible to acquire the meanings of all the joyo kanji in a very short period of time (some have claimed as short as a few months...impressive, if true).
I managed to learn the meanings of all the joyo kanji in about eight months. That means that in less than a year, I made it halfway to comprehending and pronouncing nearly anything you might lay in front of me.
I must be a monkey's uncle.