I agree that conventional photography should be taught before digital photography. The basics of composition, how cameras work, etc. needs to be taught if decent digital photography is to be expected. As a teacher/artist/photographer, I have come to appreciate knowing a way to do things "the old way."
Another thing to consider is this. What happens if your shiny new digital camera doesn't work, due to cold or heat extremes? I had this happen with a Nikon digital and was so happy I had my backup "old fashioned" Nikon FM, Cannon AE-1, and my even older range finder camera. In fact my range finder camera was one that I used to take long exposure night shots in Alaska. Try doing that with a digital point and shoot, or even some of the more pricey digitals.
So I agree with Richard, teach the basic conventional photography first, then move on to digital.
+ I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way--things I had no words for.-Georgia O'Keefe