There are many possible answers here...I just tell you on what equipment I learned....
I learned photography on a Canon Elan IIE. You could leave it fully automatic, but I forced myself to use it in completely manual mode most of the time. Although the lenses are auto-focus, you can switch them over to manual focus as well. (Used Elan II bodies are available at keh.com for less than $100.)
I started with a cheap zoom lens, eventually tried other lenses, and what I learned is that (for me) I prefer wide-angle to telephoto.
You might want to invest in a tripod...you will quickly find out that it's easy to take blurred shots with slower shutter speeds you get with overcast conditions and slow lenses.
Finally, if you hear the term "mirror lockup", it's not some fatal defect in the camera -- it's a feature which allows the mirror to move out of the way of the lens a few seconds before the shutter releases - the motion of the mirror can cause the camera to shake leading to blurred shots. It can be useful in macro shots...the Elan II had this feature.
Just mentioning how one photographer learned....you will get other opinions I bet (ha!).