|Let's clarify something. Starting with poles does not imply starting with pole touches. In fact, may believe the best way to use poles in a first lesson is to have a student hold both poles horizontally out in front of them, practicing the old 'lunch tray' routine. If you allow beginners to hold poles down, they will often drop their hands and end up with a bad habit from the outset.
I agree with you that if you "allow beginners to hold poles down, they will often drop their hands and end up with a bad habit from the outset." Another thing I have noticed in classes with poles, however, is that some people think that the poles will help with their balance and can be used to help them stop. I've actually seen people get injured because they had no idea what to do with poles and have planted them between their legs as a way to stop themselves.
I feel that the first time out they have enough to concentrate on without having to worry about the poles. The poles tend to get in the way. You can have them hold their hands in the correct position by imagining that they are carrying a "lunch" tray (with adults I say a tray of drinks). I've noticed, particularly with the adults and older people, believe it or not, that the poles just become another obstacle to deal with.