Straight Talk Advice

Oct 29, 2008

When friends want to cheat off you

DEAR STRAIGHT TALK: I’m a freshman in high school taking advanced placement classes. I work hard for my grades. As I was leaving Civics recently, after a turning in a test, “Lisa,” who was sitting by the door, asked for the answer to one of the questions. I didn’t know what to do, so I told her. Then she kept asking about question after question and I kept giving her the answers. It was end of class, so everyone was making noise, and this teacher is oblivious anyway, but still, I didn’t like it. Then, when I got an A, and Lisa got an A, too, it made me kind of mad. How can I stop kids from cheating off me without being a snob? It sometimes happens over the phone, too, with friends copying sections of my essays word-for-word. I just don’t know how to tell them not to. I want to have friends.

Lodi, CA

Betsy, 20, Durham NH

I know you want people to like you, but don’t sell out. I used sarcasm as my weapon. Someone would whisper, “What’s number six?” and I’d say, lightly, “Wouldn’t you like to know!” They soon stopped bugging me.

Emily, 16

I’ve had phases where I asked the person next to me for the last few homework answers. Though appreciative of those who “helped” me, I respected more those who denied me. Taking credit for someone else’s work is not only unethical, skipping those last questions could be the difference between an A and a C on your next test. About losing friends, there’s the saying: “Those who care don’t matter, and those who matter don’t care.”

Ashley, 21, Auburn CA

The next time this happens, offer to study together. That way you can make friends and still do the right thing.

Mariah, 16, Colinsville OK

I’d give them the wrong answers. Or have your parents talk with the school about the oblivious teacher. If they can’t tough out the class, they should drop it.

Farren, 21, Redding CA

Even if you’re nice about it, most teens are vicious if you don’t let them copy your work. People always asked me for answers in high school and often they hated me because I wasn’t necessarily nice about turning them down. If I thought someone was copying my test, I would fill in the wrong answers. Sometimes, if a person normally did their work, I’d let them copy my homework. But seriously, the slackers didn’t deserve it. It sucks that they don’t have enough time, or they’re going through a rough spot, but that doesn’t mean you do their work for them. Free rides don’t help people. Just say, “You know, I spend a lot of time doing my work and if you don’t understand the material I wouldn’t mind helping you, but if you just want the answers, ask someone else.”

Letting someone cheat off you is worse than being a cheater. It represents a weak character — and repercussions for getting caught will be the same as for the cheater. You work hard to earn an A, so represent that! Be a leader others look up to, not a wimp who dispenses answers. 

Graham, 15, Fair Oaks CA

I’m also a freshman in honors. If anyone asks me for homework answers, I say, “No, but I can help you figure it out!” Think of it this way: if people get mad because they can’t cheat off you, are those the friends you want?

Elise, 17, Sacramento CA

Stand up for what you believe. True friends will understand.

Peter, 21, Monterey CA

People always wanted my help, too, and I’m a nice guy so I’d help them. But letting people copy isn’t helping them, it’s hurting them — and it’s wrong. Refusing to help someone cheat shows you’ve got morals. If you’re worried about your social status, remember: nobody likes a cheater.

  1. By Mark, Chicago, IL, age , on 11/11/2008

    I thought you might be interested in this article about cheating:
    Education Experts: The Cheating Crisis in Our Schools

    Most American students cheat.
    In nationwide surveys on college campuses, about seven in ten students admitted to some cheating. Three in five high school students admitted that they had cheated on an exam, and more than four in five admitted copying another student’s homework in the past 12 months.
    There is a cheating crisis in our schools, and the problem is not confined to low-achieving or unmotivated students. Cheating is common among most types of students—boys, girls, athletes, smart kids, student leaders, even those with “strong religious beliefs.” Why are so many students cheating?
    Malcolm Gauld is President of Hyde Schools, which consist of prep schools in Maine and Connecticut and public schools in Washington DC and Bronx, New York. The schools have led the way in character-building education for 40 years, and have been featured on CBS’s 60 Minutes, ABC’s 20/20, and PBS. Gauld, along with wife, Laura, is also the award-winning co-author of the parenting book The Biggest Job We’ll Ever Have (Scribner), and is recognized as one of the nation’s leading experts on character education and parenting.
    “Our culture has become preoccupied with achievement,” the Gaulds explain. “Pressure for grades—to win parents’ approval and gain admission to colleges—leads many students to cheat. While many students are pushed to succeed by parents and a grade-based system that starts naming winners at an early age, students also feel pulled by a desire to get on a path to top colleges and high-paying jobs.”
    But there are serious ramifications to ‘winning at any cost,’ according to Laura—including lack of character in students, and also the lack of self-esteem.
    “Never kid a kid,” Malcolm says. “They will never misread our true expectations of them. They know we have created an educational system that values their aptitude more than their attitude, their ability more than their effort, and their talent more than their character. They are surrounded by signs that tell them that what they can do is more important than who they are.”
    Unfortunately, an environment that values only achievement can make it extremely easy for test scores and awards to lure good kids into a false sense of fulfillment. This is not the genuine self-esteem that is earned from the learning process—which includes mistakes and some hardship—and it can leave kids feeling empty.
    “In a character culture, achievement is valued, but principles are valued more,” says Laura. “That is, what you stand for is more important than merely how you stack up against others.”
    In addition to this pressure for external achievements, Malcolm Gauld identifies another debilitating grip on today’s kids, which is the result of a prevalent mindset in our homes, schools, and culture, that asserts that kids need to feel good about themselves all of the time.
    “Applied to education, this mindset seems to say, ‘If we make kids feel good about themselves, they will do great things,’” explains Malcolm. “But, in fact, it’s the other way around. When kids do well, and do it honestly, they will feel good about themselves.”
    “Character is inspired, not imparted,” Malcolm continues. “We cannot pour it into our kids or our families. Self-esteem—real, authentic self-esteem—is essential, and once earned, it can never be taken away. Our children should graduate from schools with a healthy amount of it.”
    Hyde School graduate Dana Wappler, 20, agrees.
    “Hyde School helped instill a sense of responsibility in me,” Wappler says. “If your character comes first, everything else flows from that.”
    At this time, Hyde School’s famous “Attitude over Aptitude” philosophy is now branching out into the public schools, from Washington, D.C. to New York City. For more information, complete bios and photos, contact Rose Mulligan, 207-443-7379, or

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