By Sarah Wright
What Counts as Cheating?
There are some obvious forms of cheating. We all know that writing answers on your hand, placing a note card with pertinent information in a hidden place, memorizing answers from a cheat sheet and copying completed assignments is cheating. But there are ways of cheating that are more subtle than that. Allowing friends to copy your work is also cheating, even if you aren't the one doing the copying. Even if it doesn't fit a dictionary definition of cheating, you're still likely to get in as much trouble as you would if you were the recipient and not the source of the information. Therefore, it is to your benefit not to allow things like this to happen either.
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What to Do When a Friend Wants You to Cheat
The obvious first thing to do when a friend asks you to cheat is to say no and tell them to leave you out of whatever plan or scheme they're cooking up - that you don't want to know anything about it. Even having knowledge of a plan to cheat can land you in hot water. Unfortunately, it's not always as simple as just saying no. If your request to be left out of it is ignored or treated with hostility, you'll need to take action. Here are some steps to take to avoid getting into trouble and losing your friends in the process.
Give a More Thorough Response Than 'No'
'Just say no' is a little too weak in some situations. Some people hear 'no' and think it means 'I just haven't been properly convinced yet.' If your cheating friends are among those who think 'no' means 'maybe,' you might have to give them a bit of detail about why you aren't going to go along with their scheme. Explain the trouble it could cause, and how it's not worth it to you. Tell them that you won't be convinced to cheat, and that they should leave you out of it. Ideally, you would convince them to avoid trouble by being honest themselves, but you can't count on that happening. Just worry about yourself first and make sure it's known that you want nothing to do with your friends' dishonesty. Make your answer firm, but don't make it personal, unless you want to hurt and potentially anger your friends.
Decide Whether to Tell a Teacher
There are a few reasons to avoid telling a teacher if you know your friends are going to be cheating. First, some teachers react to information about a cheating scheme by assuming equal guilt among everyone in a class, and punish everyone accordingly. If everyone knows that you're the one who tattled, this isn't going to earn you many friends. Though we're not suggesting you put worries about popularity before honesty or morality, we recognize that being bullied and socially isolated can make your life miserable. It's best to try to avoid that.
However, if you feel the cheating is getting out of control, and you're afraid that your teacher is going to think you're a part of it, you should probably say something. You can try leaving an anonymous note or sending an email from a dummy account. But it might be best to have the discussion face-to-face so your teacher knows you're innocent, and so you can explain your anxiety about social repercussions. Hopefully, your teacher will be sympathetic to that and will find a way to stop the cheating without making it obvious that you tattled.
Cheating can have serious consequences.