At the end of the film, we learn that many world-changing ideas originated in the Washington character's classrooms, so there are obviously great stories to tell. If only somebody could figure out how to tell them.
The film avoids potentially interesting frictions by always letting the team debate (and win) on the 'correct' side of every issue -- that which aligns with generally accepted modern liberal sympathies.
When The Great Debaters ends, expect to be uplifted despite the inherent schmaltz. Think about the film for any length of time afterwards, and the wheels of its storytelling undeniably begin to deflate.
For a movie about a debate team -- one with the word 'debaters' in the title, no less -- Denzel Washington's second effort as a director doesn't have that much interest in what a debate looks and sounds like.