Logic for Voice Teachers: Burden of Proof


A troubling thing about the state of teaching and vocal pedagogy are various declarative assertions made by voice teachers as statements of FACT. These same teachers also become prickly and defensive when their claims are challenged, and they respond in a way that violates rules of logic.

If you are a teacher and you make a claim which is unsupported by any evidence, based on your OWN personal experience, it is NOT upon the person challenging your claim to prove that you are wrong. YOU are the one making such a claim, and therefore YOU have the burden of proof. YOU must prove that your claim is true within a reasonable doubt.

For example, if you make an assertion such as “The throat needs to be open so that you don’t get double harmonics,” –  this is a claim of PHYSIOLOGY and ACOUSTICS. If you are challenged in your assertion, these are wrong ways to respond:

        “Twenty years of teaching has proven this to be true.”

“My research proves I’m right.” 

“You can’t prove that I’m wrong.”

“I can say whatever I want.”

All these responses shift the burden of proof AWAY from the person making the claim, and back on the person challenging the claim. This is not how logic works.

Here’s another example:

“I have one million dollars in my closet.” (That is an ASSERTION).

You might say, “I don’t believe that you have one million dollars in your closet.” (A CHALLENGE to the ASSERTION).

Since I am the one with the burden of proof, (I’m making the claim) it rests upon me to PROVE that I have a million dollars in my closet. It is not upon YOU, the challenger, to prove that I DON’T.

You do not have to PROVE A NEGATIVE. You do NOT have the burden of proof.

If you are going to make an outlandish claim, (or one that rests outside general accepted understanding of the voice and favors your personal, subjective experience) then the burden of proof rests upon YOU, dear teacher, to prove your assertion as TRUE.

Extraordinary CLAIMS require extraordinary EVIDENCE.

Bring your footnotes, please.