Over the years I have driven cars, trucks, motorcycles and motor scooters with all sorts of transmission variations. Old Cushman scooters had only a centrifugal clutch and no gearshift at all. Cushman Eagle scooters had a two-speed crashbox, and a centrifugal clutch with a foot pedal operated throwout for shifting. Vespa scooters had three- or four-speed twist grip shifters. I have driven motorcycles with left- or right-foot shifters, operating either up or down, with three, four, five and six speeds. I have driven cars and light trucks with three, four, and five speed manual gearboxes, column shift "three on the tree" or floor shift, and even a through-the-dash shifter on the Renault R4. I have driven automatic transmissions with one speed (1950 Buick Dynaflow), two speeds, three, four, five and six speeds and a CVT. Some had torque converter lockup (which usually feels just about like another shift); some did not. I have driven heavy trucks with Eaton Super Ten boxes, and a school bus with a four-speed plus a two-speed axle to "split" the shifts. The buses our district currently owns are automatics. I have had three motor scooters (still have one) with CVTs. Oh yes - I have also driven a Rambler with an E-stick, and a VW Beetle with an "Automatic Stick Shift." I like to think I have a fair amount of experience. In all the years, with all the different transmission types, the only time I have really felt any need to "take control" of automatic transmission shifting is on long steep downhill grades for engine braking. Yes, it might be fun to play with the gears, but in general the automatic transmission does a pretty good job.
The truck with the Eaton Super Ten had a Detroit Diesel 12.7 liter turbocharged engine. Its nameplate rated it at 500 horsepower at 2100 rpm, or 375 horsepower at 1800 rpm. The company for whom I drove limited their engines to 1800 rpm. The transmission gearing was such that when the engine was at 1800 rpm, shifting up a gear dropped it to about 1500 rpm. Shifting up two gears would drop the engine to 1200 rpm, at which rpm it didn't really make useful torque. When one gets into heavy traffic at varying speeds with such a power package, shifting loses its thrill, even if the truck made it fairly easy. Make the traffic stop-and-go where the clutch has to be used, and it becomes even less fun.
Decades ago there were articles on drag racing and automatic transmissions. Consensus seemed to be that a good driver with a manual transmission, doing everything just right, could beat an automatic about one time in ten. The other nine times, the automatic would win - and it would turn in very consistent times. Just lately I read an article bewailing the disappearance of manual transmissions. In it was mentioned a man who has been racing Corvettes on race tracks for many years. His latest Corvette has an automatic, because it gives him better lap times.
Yes, there are those who feel manual transmissions make one more "connected" to the vehicle. There are those who feel automatics are only for disabled or elderly and feeble drivers, or those who are incapable of learning the intricacies of manual gearboxes. I look at it from the point of view that every time the driver changes gear, he (or she) is admitting they were operating in the wrong gear.
Charon always goes of on a longwinded rant if he doesn't like someone's opinion. The thing is, you could justify your preferred gearbox with pages and pages of story's, but at the end of the day, all the experience and opinion in the World about something doesn't really matter. It boils down to preference. 75% to 80% of people in the UK prefer a manual for various reasons, it's just a fact.
My first lesson in driving. My father took me to an open large parking lot. Told me to let out the clutch slowly. Don't touch the gas pedal. This made it easy to learn a clutch. Didn't have to learn this. He thought it best I learn a clutch first.
I had a neighbor gal who wanted to learn to drive a standard transmission. I did the same with her. Biggest problem with her was getting through her fake act as a person. Get her to face the fact, she was gonna goof up. That's what we were there for. Just back off. Don't sit there and laugh and scream excuses.
Personally, I would teach a new driver using a vehicle with an automatic. That would allow them to learn everything except clutch and gearshift operation and become reasonably competent drivers without having to worry about transmission management. If they were interested, or if archaic regulations so required, I would then teach them the manual transmission. In essence, the idea is to separate the act of driving somewhat from the act of powertrain management.
A little while back my then son-in-law asked me how long it would take to learn to use a manual transmission, given that he was already driving an automatic. I thought about it, and said probably about two or three hours to learn the motions, and two or three weeks to become comfortable. I stand by that. I have also taken a couple of motorcycle safety courses. All of them presume basic knowledge of rules of the road, derived from the students already being licensed drivers. A considerable amount of course time is taken up teaching clutch and shift operation, since substantially all motorcycles are manual.