To the opposite, you are on a very good track, martin, maybe I can bring in one distinction which can complement your thoughts... here I go:
If the objective is to understand and envisualize rhytmic patterns which one is not culturally familiar with,
then I believe going from something which one knows towards something new is a valid approach.
If you can get a grip on a clave by forcing it into a 16th scheme, than that is one valid approach.
Your clave will be slightly off from a culturally inhertited players clave, but still close enough so you can work on from there.
To expect the learner to be able to grab the subtle not-so-rasterized flow by looking at rotating cycles seems a little dubious to me - it may work if you spend a lot of time trying to groove along, but in terms of effectiveness... I'm not sure.
What happens if you try to break down an organic rythmn into western notation is quite similar to what happens when you play classical pieces for strings on a tempered piano - the music suffers a bit from the raster that is applied, but it also becomes playable.
I'd rather tend to try to teach people to get intuitive at rastering beats onto 16th notes, that can be a great help to start moving.
I do notice the differences between rasterized and felt rhythms when playing drums, and by now I do love to go for the felt approach, but the rasterized concept gives me a great fallback knowledge on top of which I can do experiments.
In the end, you can apply "laid back" or "up front" aspects to each hit note to move it away from the 16th raster, and if you are lucky, you'll end up close to where a "native" would feel the groove.
Now, both of us play drums, martin, but I do watch a lot of guitar and bass players approaches to rhythm, too. Shame on guitar teachers who never really talk about groove and rather teach more fancy chords and scales, if you ask me.
What I consider very helpfull to get a groove straight on a guitar is a technique that applies a solid timing-raster to your playing, and thats why I had to step in here and drop a word PRO a rasterized approach :)
My advice to the beginning guitar groover:
Given, you listen to some drum groove and would like to lock in to that.
Given you can spot the "1", meaning the time when a repetition of the groove begins, hit your knee with your right hand any time that moment comes around.
In a normal tempo scenario, the wait time from 1-to-1 will feel quite long, and you will feel the urge to tap faster than just on the one.
Also, you'll most likely hear a loud snare-drum which you'd also feel deserves a tap on the knee, which sits in opposition to the "1", on position "3" (6 o'clock on the rotating circles).
If you tap that, too, then you are basicly doing what westerners do when they clap along to music - clap on one and three. That will feel natural to you.
If it is a very slow groove, even that may feel very slowish, and you will be able to double up your clapping speed, now tapping one - two - three - four.
If you grew up in the west, you can do that, guaranteed.
Allright, go ahead and strum on your guitar instead of tapping your knee now. Let's say you do the full 1-2-3-4.
How do you do that? All downstrokes? All upstrokes? A wild mix?
Try to make the natural four all as downstrokes please.
Next: Return to playing strokes on the 1 and 3 only, but keep your wrist moving as if you were still strumming all four.
the up and down movement of your right hand will from now on become your raster.
Next time you meet some rythm that does not feel all natural to you, or you would like to get away from the entirely boring 1-2-3-4 positions, why not dare to play a strum in between:
Challenge yourself to play one chord one the "1", and the second between the 2 and 3 (I'll call that 2+ position).
If you try that without your swinging-arm-raster, that will be hard to hit.
If you keep the arm swinging, the 2+ position will be the upstroke coming after the second downstroke, all you need to focus on is bringing the pleck to the strings as that happens.
I apply the same logic to playing drums, the division happens between my left and right hand instead of up and down movements of one hand.
In the end, all you need to memorize are the moments when you switch from one mode/side/move to the other. If the natural raster is flowing by itself, you can focus on bringing in the emphasiz on the desired notes.
It's a "Play all of em, but only those loud which you want to be heard" kind of approach.
This idea applied, tackling a 7/8 meter groove comes down to realizing that all notes which are on downstrokes in the first bar will come around on upstroke positions in the second bar, simply because 7 is not an even number, and by memorizing the body movement instead of some theory + counting, I believe you can get a feel for such odd beats much better than by trying to understand what is going on with logic.
Playing ska is utterly easy once you realize you simply need to play upstrokes all the time to get that jumpy offbeat going, while your arm does the good old 4-down move you've been familiar with all these years.
darn, another long one ;)