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On Optimal Development and Becoming an Optimiser


  • Doret J. de Ruyter

Correspondence: Doret de Ruyter, VU University, Faculty of Psychology and Education, Department of Theory and Research in Education, Van der Boechorststraat 1, 1081 BT Amsterdam, the Netherlands.



The article aims to provide a justification for the claim that optimal development and becoming an optimiser are educational ideals that parents should pursue in raising their children. Optimal development is conceptualised as enabling children to grow into flourishing persons, that is persons who have developed (and are still developing) their given possibilities to the full and optimally fulfil the domains that can be said to be objectively good for all people. This also comprises the development of children into persons who want to become optimisers and pursue excellent aims in life, i.e. who pursue ideals. Optimal development is not only an ideal, it requires ideals too. With excellent examples of the objective goods that are good for all people, children are given examples of what it means to strive for the best and are thereby enabled to develop themselves to the full. Two main points of critique, namely that it leads to elitism and to neurotic perfectionism are discussed and rebutted. This leads to a defence of a form of realistic perfectionism. The article ends with a description of the way in which parents could aspire towards the ideal aim of realistic perfectionism.