I have been fortunate enough to use manual transmissions my entire driving life starting at 9 years old in a 1969 Ford Cortina on a back road. Always at least 1 manual transmission in the household. 1st day in drivers ed had us in a 4 speed Corolla. I was the most prepared so I got the most road time.
My son became proficient in a Miata at age 8 with a few trips to a local parking lot.He moved my semi truck in a field a few times at age 10. At age 15 with his learners permit, our dear friend with a 427 powered 1961 Galaxie gave him a crack at it. When he got home, we asked him if he had fun, His response was “You accelerate until you see God, then you shift !”. My son has a six speed in his Scion.
I believe a manual transmission makes for a better driver, more in tune with the driving experience, more concentration in what is happening around you. Fewer hands for cell phones, coffee mugs and newspapers when driving with 3 pedals and 2 hands.
Modern automatic transmissions may have become more efficient, reliable and easy to use. but I get a smile from seamless shift or perfect 2-1 downshift without using a clutch in a rolling 3 speed without a syncro 1st gear. The biggest smile comes from a passenger that doesn’t realize they’re riding in a car with a manual transmission.