Okay, I'm going to be teaching a group come January, and here's what I've told them:
Get one skein of Worsted-weight 4-ply yarn that is not wool. Be sure to pick out your very-most favorite color.
Get a pair of size 7 or 8 knitting needles.
When we meet, I will have them learn how to cast on and how to do the knitting stitch. Then, once they can complete one row of knitting, I'll get them to frog it and cast on about 30 stitches. They will then do the knit stitch until a square is formed, then they'll learn how to bind off. Presto! One potholder/dishcloth. Goofs are allowed, perfection not required!
Then I'll blow their minds by... teaching them to purl. Then they'll cast on another 30 stitches and [you guessed it!] Purl until they have another square. For a potholder, they can sew the 2 squares together. Again, goofs allowed. Just gives their results more character, right?
Now it'll be the stockinette stitch: knit one row, purl one row. And then I'll let them pick out a simple pattern to do.
Gofer it! Knitting is not hard at all - just those 2 stitches: Knit and Purl. Get them down, and the World is Yours! [sorta]