Bah, when I was first learning HTML, the book I started with just gave us the doctype, went on from there, and later got back to it with a better explanation-- that's what I'd do with the use strict, use warnings-- just tell people to stick them in there, add a sentence stating what they do and that they'll get more explained later, and you're good. No need to discuss it for two pages on a new tut.
"But that doesn't mean I think we should encourage non-programmers to become programmers. I'm convinced good programmers are more or less born like that, and that they only need to learn to use the appropriate tools."
I'm a eugenicist myself, but even I wouldn't go that far. Watch out! I'm an idiot non-programmer who can add 2 and 2 and get 4, 5 or 6, and I'm going to use these plain-English tutorials to start desecrating the Perl language like you wouldn't believe! I will fill the nodes and cb with n00b questions and I will start out writing stupid teletubbie programs while I still don't know what I'm doing, and then some, and you won't stop me! I will learn a programming language, learn it well, and no I wasn't born that way.
The language style didn't come across to me as patronising but rather easy-going and laid back-- the same style I see in the Camel book, actually. It's friendly, straight-forward and yes, is written for people like me who were not born with programming genes.
Nice beginning tutorial, Brian. Keep writing them.