Muscle memory

Although I am not teaching any Latin classes this year, I still identify myself as a Latin and Computer Science teacher. And whenever I introduce myself that way, I always get a reaction.

“The old and the new, huh? What an odd mix.”

It’s not necessarily the juxtaposition of modern and ancient that elicits a reaction (maybe it’s science vs. humanities or the vocational gap between the two), but the surprise always seems to be there.

It’s not really that weird

Classics and computer science in fact have a lot in common. The students whom I’ve taught in both classes see it the same way. A few examples:

  • Habits of pattern-matching, algorithmic thinking, debugging are expressed similarly but with different names.
  • Puzzle-masters, problem-solvers, and decoders feel equally at home in these two fields.
  • Simultaneous abstract- and concrete-thinking skills are required in both disciplines.
  • Whether we are interpreting ancient texts for modern English readers or writing code for computers, both are essentially one-way translations.
  • Computer scientists and classicists are both hung up on documentation. Classicists compile a single dictionary for a hundred years; programmers store millions of lines of code with instructions and annotations online.

Here’s the weird part

Before Virgil or Turing entered my world, I was a dancer. I performed, competed, and practiced 20-hours per week in my childhood. When I was 16 I earned the title of National Male Dancer of the Year and High Scoring Soloist. Here’s proof:

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