I was hoping you could offer some advice on how to handle a recurring conundrum of mine. I'm a fairly good student and as a result of this my friends often end up asking to copy or cheat off of my work. It seems like a no-brainer, right? Just say no.
But in the confusing world that is high school, I find it hard to say no without seeming like a bad friend. So many people just expect me to say yes. I generally pride myself on my principles, but can never bring myself to stick to my principles on this front. I was hoping you maybe had some quick retorts or responses to allow me to keep a clean conscience and avoid any awkward moments with friends.
Quick retorts? Why yes, I have many a quick retort for just this occasion! And the next time someone says, “Hey, can I copy your homework?”, I encourage you to...
a) ...say, “Thanks, but I’m trying to quit.”
b) ...reply, “Oh sure! I just love working my ass off so that my lazy friends never have to!”
c) ...turn around, give them a look full of sass and madness, and say, “I don’t know! Can a woodchuck mate with a hamburger?”—followed by maniacal laughing and a wild double display of finger guns. Which will not only allow you to exit the situation with your principles intact, but will also preclude any future requests for homework-copying, because nobody wants to cheat off the mentally deranged.
And there you go! Case closed! Just as you requested: snappy retorts that allow you to keep a clean conscience and avoid any awk—
Oh. Right. So, uh, forget everything I just said.
Because unfortunately, Sparkler, it’s not possible to set new boundaries with old friends without causing at least a little bit of awkwardness—and the snappier your response, the bigger the awkward ripples will be (not to mention the psychological wounds you inflict on your social group). So if what you want is to resolve this problem with maximum efficiency and minimal hard feelings, then straightforward sincerity is the way to go. And the next time someone asks you to copy their work, just take them aside and say (in your own words): “Look, I’ve tried to be cool about this, but the whole copying thing is starting to get weird for me. I’m happy to help out occasionally, but it’s like there’s this expectation that I’ll just let people cheat off me anytime they ask, and it makes me feel really taken advantage of.”
At which point your friends will apologize and back off, chagrined at the realization that they've been making you feel used. (Or they won't, in which case... get new friends, because the ones you have are clearly defective.)
But hang on! Because while a line-drawing conversation is half the solution, the other half is knowing where to draw those lines and why. You pride yourself on your principles, yet you find it hard to invoke them when friends ask you to copy your work—and that might be because you need to work on your backbone, but it also might be because you sense that not every request for help needs to trigger a crisis of conscience on your part. Your letter doesn’t go into the specifics of just how and when these requests come in, but there’s a big difference between a pal who wants to cheat off you in big-deal situations—during exams or on major projects, for instance—versus one who struggles in a given subject and wants to check her homework against yours. And just as it’s important to stand on principle when you’re asked to do something uncomfy, it’s also important to recognize that not every low-stakes favor for a friend equals a referendum on your academic integrity.
So, while you’re thinking about what you won’t do under the umbrella of standing on principle, also consider what you will do—be it joint homework sessions, going over worksheets together, or pointing a would-be copier in the direction of the correct answer so that she can work it out on her own—under the umbrella of being a good friend.
Which will not only keep your conscience clean, but keep your friends close, too.
Do you help your friends with their schoolwork, or get a smartypants friend to help you? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Related post: Auntie SparkNotes: A Teensy Cheat