Assess the validity of the following statement: "Social and political reformers in the first half of the nineteenth century shared a belief that society and human nature were inherently good, and that changes in both social institutions and people's behavior were necessary to allow humans' natural goodness to prevail."
These reforms--education, prison, mental health, temperance, womens' rights, abolition--all took place, more or less, during the Second Great Awakening. This was a time when Americas were not only rediscovering a more religious life, but believed that they must use that religious faith to spread goodness and justice. I don't know if I would say they believed in man's inherent goodness, but they believed in the power of God, and His ability to save them and their society.
Most of the reform movements of that time period were based on improving life for people. There was the anti slavery movement to improve the life o of former slaves. The women's groups to abolish the use of alcohol would hoped to improve life. Also their push for the right to vote was during that time.
For the "yes" side, I'd look at the movements for prison and educational reforms during this time.
In both of these cases, reformers were pretty much saying that people could be improved (either by being cured of being criminal or by getting a good education). All that had to be done for either of these things to happen as to improve the institutions where the criminals or the school kids spent their time. So this implies that people are good and that goodness can prevail as long as the conditions are right.