That principle of building coherent, cumulative content animates the most effective school systems in the world, and for good reason: The systematic development of student knowledge from earliest grades in history, literature, science, and the arts is essential to high verbal ability—which in turn is the key to social mobility and college readiness.
The words italicized above don’t define the specific historical, scientific, and other knowledge that is required for mature literacy. (If they did, no state would have adopted the CCSS, because specific content remains a local—or teacher—prerogative in the U.S.) But those words are an impetus to a brave and insightful governor or state superintendent to get down to brass tacks. In early schooling, progress cannot be made without coherence and specificity.
First, of course specific content in history, literature, science, and the arts can be and is specified by the states -- in the standards for each discipline. What makes no sense is the idea that the ELA/Literacy standards would be the proper place to address the issue. Especially since these standards are so hostile to content within the discipline of English.
Beyond that, it is deeply problematic to pretend that "standards" act the same way across all grade levels and disciplines. I'm not losing any sleep over a curriculum that teaches ancient civilizations in first grade ELA -- I'm sure it is done well some places and poorly in others -- but I think what we can all agree on is that it would be absurd for a first grader who was a fluent reader in general to fail English class and repeat the grade because they did not remember enough about the pharaohs to meet the English standard for knowledge of Egyptian history.
Sure, that's an absurd straw man scenario that nobody is proposing... I think... but all our terms in this debate are so badly defined, I'm not sure why such a scenario isn't the logical implication of a system of strict standards, content-focus and viewing knowledge as a component of "literacy."