- The Washington Times - Friday, August 26, 2005

Nobles: Jean Louise Stellfox, who even in death wished only to serve her students.

Miss Stellfox sounds like the kind of high-school English teacher no one wanted to get, but whom no would ever forget. According to the New York Times, she made her students commit to memory Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy (all 35 lines); learn the names of all the Greek and Roman gods; and read nearly forgotten writers like Alexander Pope. She was the kind of teacher, in other words, whose stern discipline students carry with them throughout their lives.

It was then no surprise that her untimely death in 2003 at 64 drew an overflowing crowd to the funeral home. But what those who paid their last respects didn’t know, and what NYT education reporter Michael Winerip has only recently discovered, is that Miss Stellfox had left most of her $1.5 million worth to Dickinson College, her alma mater. That the 39-year public school teacher had even amassed so much money surprised everyone who knew her.

Only Todd Kerstetter, now a lawyer, knew. Miss Stellfox approached her former student and asked if he would help write her will. It was at Dickinson in 1959, Mr. Kerstetter says, when a visit by poet Robert Frost convinced the young undergraduate that her calling was to become an English teacher. She hoped that her gift would help Dickinson continue inviting prominent writers to talk with students.

For her gift of inspiration, Miss Stellfox is the Noble of the week.

Knaves: New York Times reporter Michael Moss, for doing all he can to undermine the military.

Yet another reason not to believe everything you read. On Aug. 14, Mr. Moss had a story that said the Pentagon was failing in its duty to protect soldiers in Iraq. According to the story, “for the second time since the Iraq war began, the Pentagon is struggling to replace body armor that is failing to protect American troops from the most lethal attacks of insurgents.”

Quite a story, if only if it were true. Columnist Jack Kelly tracked down Col. Thomas Spoehr, director of materiel for the Army and the source of Mr. Moss’ scoop. According to Col. Spoehr, Mr. Moss manipulated what he told him to turn what was actually a good-news story into a bad one. The Pentagon wasn’t ignoring the needs of its soldiers, the colonel said; in fact, what he told Mr. Moss was that the Pentagon and the Army were far ahead in the normally sluggish procurement process in getting soldiers better armor. The old vests weren’t outdated, but Army officials wanted to design a vest that would be able to stop a special type of bullet, which there is little evidence the enemy were even using.

From Mr. Moss’ story, said Col. Spoehr, “you would get the impression that our soldiers were in harm’s way or at risk. That is not true.”

For refusing to allow truth to get in the way of his agenda, Mr. Moss is the Knave of the week.

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